Restaurant review: Redmond’s Hola!

Peruvian cafe wins fans for its colorful, creative Latino cuisine

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Hola! Redmond

Location: 514 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Redmond

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Price range: Lunch $8 to $14; dinner appetizers $8 to $14, entrees $12 to $21

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian menu: Most dishes can be made vegetarian; chile relleno and ensalada verde are good options

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Seasonal deck seating

Reservations: Recommended for larger parties

Contact: www.holabend.com or 541-923-7290

Scorecard

OVERALL: A-

Food: A. The Hola! group’s creative Mexican-Peruvian menu is enhanced by special plates.

Service: A-. Playful but professional, following its friendly greetings with efficient order taking.

Atmosphere: A-. Colorful walls are painted in wild designs, and a new deck is taking shape.

Value: B+. Prices are moderate, matching the level of cuisine and quality staff.

Five new Central Oregon restaurants in seven years is rapid growth for a small family business.

So when Marcos Rodriguez talks about the success of his new Hola! restaurant, which has brought his unique brand of “nouveau Mexican-Peruvian cuisine” to Redmond, it’s only natural to ask him about future growth.

Initially, that growth will be at Hola! Redmond itself. The 1,800-square-foot restaurant will expand into an adjacent space to create a private dining room for large parties — and, at the same time, more than double the size of its outside deck to seat up to 35 guests. “We’re planning that to be completed by Cinco de Mayo (May 5),” Rodriguez said.

But in the not-too-distant future, he is gazing over the Cascade Range into the Willamette Valley: “We’re looking into Eugene and Portland, but waiting for the right location,” said the native of Guadalajara, Mexico. “And I’m excited!”

For the moment, he’s occupied not only with his Redmond establishment, but three Bend restaurants (east side, downtown and Old Mill) and a Sunriver location, putting 5,000 miles a month on his car as he shuttles among the quintet.

The east-Bend location, in the Forum Shopping Center, opened in March 2007. Rodriguez, in Oregon since 1999, had previously worked as executive chef at La Rosa. He partnered with commercial real estate agent Peter Lowes in that first restaurant, and assisted by his brother, Alberto, now manager of Hola! in the Old Mill, business exploded.

Colorful design

Hola! Redmond opened in the last week of 2013 on Greenwood Avenue, on the north side of downtown between Fifth and Sixth streets. It may be the most vibrantly decorated of the already colorful group.

Walls of brilliant hues painted in south-of-the-border designs greet patrons, who could be forgiven for thinking the work was inspired by a tequila-fueled moment.

The menu is the same as it is at other Hola! restaurants, but when chef Jose Rivas is in the kitchen, the likelihood of surprise specials increases. In recent weeks, these have included razor clams and Spanish-style paella, as well as the boar-rib costillitas that he prepared for my dining companion.

Grilled pork ribs in a sweet barbecue sauce with causas, a Peruvian potato cake, are always on the menu. Rivas’ version offered a generous portion of tiny but tasty boar ribs, doused in a tamarind sauce with a sesame sprinkle. The sweetness was perfectly balanced by quinotto — a quinoa pilaf tossed with spinach and pineapple — and by the tart, light dressing on a simple cucumber-and-red onion salad.

I ordered a seafood dish of lenguado (halibut or sole) sauteed “Chorrillo-style” with calamari and prawns, onions and tomatoes. The sauce it produced was unpretentious but perfect for the dish, preserving rather than masking the flavor of the fish. It was presented with a different quinotto, this one featuring peas in the quinoa.

Creative dishes

On a return visit, I brought two friends to share five plates among us:

• Ceviche Mexicano. Raw halibut is marinated in lime juice with chopped onions, cilantro, tomatoes and avocados. This Latino classic is delicious.

• Taco salad. We wanted greens, and this fit the bill. Lettuce, spinach and other fresh leaves were tossed with shredded beef, tomatoes and crunchy tortilla strips, and served with sour cream and guacamole.

• Burrito relleno. A chile relleno — a pasilla pepper filled with roasted corn and a light queso, or Mexican cheese — is stuffed into a flour tortilla with rice and beans, then topped with a light red chile sauce and served with lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole. A vegetarian dish, it could be a meal for one in itself.

• Enchiladas Queretanas. A specialty of the Queretaro region of central Mexico, these corn tortillas are filled with chicken breast and chorizo sausage, topped with a roasted tomatillo sauce and Monterey Jack cheese, and finished with sour cream and avocado.

• Chancho a lo Sancho. This modern Peruvian dish is one of my favorites at Hola! Chunks of pork are braised in Coca-Cola, of all things, and sofrito, a spicy Peruvian sauce. Yams, onions and tomatoes are all a part of this savory mix.

Fine service

Service in Redmond is playful but professional. Manager Sergio Rodriguez, no relation to Marcos, has assembled a staff that knows introductions — “Que pasa, amigos? How are you tonight?” — are only as good as the efficient order-taking and delivery that follow. I find the Redmond servers to be pleasant and competent.

Like others in the Hola! group, the Redmond store has a bar menu unique in this part of the state, featuring such South American spirits as pisco and caipirinha, as well as a selection of top-shelf tequilas and flavored cocktails, such as vanilla mango margaritas.

Bonuses: On weekend nights, a Spanish guitarist often performs live music during the dinner hours. And there’s plenty of parking, both in a small lot and on the adjacent street, as this cafe is not in the busiest part of downtown Redmond.

Prices at this and other Hola! restaurants are moderate; there are cheaper Mexican restaurants, to be sure, but not with the same level of cuisine and quality staff. Marcos Rodriguez, however, understands the desire of many diners for budget-priced food — so he is plotting a new establishment that won’t carry the Hola! name.

“It will be a taqueria and pupuseria,” he told me, serving simple, fresh tacos and pupusas, or Salvadoran filled corn tortillas, to a midday clientele. “We will have a salsa bar and serve a vegan menu as well,” he said.

Rodriguez said he is eyeing a location on Bend’s south side, but indicated that he is not quite ready to reveal further details.

— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com

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