In a little over a year, Sausal in El Segundo has become the go-to restaurant for diners in search of Mexican comfort food with a sophisticated, modern flair. Chef Anne Conness describes the restaurant’s style as “nuevo rancho,” or “earthy flavors of traditional Hispanic fare through a Southern California sensibility.”
Sausal is named after Rancho Sausal Redondo, the ranch that encompassed El Segundo and most of the South Bay many years ago. Conness, a South Bay resident, describes that “I’ve always been fascinated by the rich culinary history of the South Bay’s founding rancheros. Reimagining those flavors in a way that speaks to the modern palate has been a goal of mine for quite some time.”
One thing that sets Sausal apart in El Segundo, a more modest town often referred to as Mayberry By the Sea, is its design and décor, which makes you feel like you are in a New York City eatery or perhaps at a trendy Westside venue. The space is big and open, with ambient lighting set off by a dual-sided fireplace in the middle of the room. It evokes a sense of being in an high-end home in Mexico, comfortable yet with a designer’s sense of appointment. The hand-painted patterned walls could be described as “Mexicana Art Deco.” There is a large wall-to-wall bar across the front of the restaurant and a happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Monday to Thursday.
And then there is the food. Much of it is cooked over a wood fire, using smoke and slow-roasting. Fresh vegetables and produce abound, tasting farmer’s market fresh to the palate. Some favorites that are not to be missed include the delicious guacamole, mitigated only by the fact that it does not come with salsa, which must be ordered (and paid for) separately.
The Chicken Pozole Soup dances with subtle flavors. The chef’s Kale, Quinoa & Goat Cheese salad is fresh and a perfect balance of flavors. And you must try the a la carte taco bar; a less expensive option at about $7 each. In particular, the Beef Brisket Barbacoa taco dances on the palate accompanied by sliced radish, green onions, and charred tomato salsa. If you like mussels you must try the Angry Mussels, a blend of mussels with house chorizo, chili cream broth, hominy, and to die-for grilled sourdough.
The only drawback to the Sausal experience is the service, which a year into operation still seems disjointed. Expect to wait for service and for the wait staff to not always understand your needs without frequent reminders for things as simple as a glass of water. Yet, it one orders a craft beer or a margarita or two these annoyances dissipate and the diner can simply enjoy all of the delights Sausal has to offer.
For more on the author go to CeceJane.com.