When it comes to the pursuit of culinary authenticity, few have gone above and beyond like Ray Heng of Mexican restaurant Pebbles.
Quick example: during a menu test this year, he gave us blue corn tortillas, made with the only such grain grown in these parts, thanks to Thomas Avary Garran. Not only that, but he showed us a contraption he created so he could add Oaxaca dish Tlayudas — think Mexican pizza — to the menu. That’s some dedication. And yet two more reasons why Pebbles rocks.
It wasn’t always so. I remember the early days, and notably his place on Xingfucun. At that time, Heng served decent Tex-Mex — it was the kind of spot you’d go for a taco Tuesday deal.
Then he took it up a dozen notches. He spent 18 months in Chicago where he studied at Kendall College and interned at restaurant Frontera Grill with famed chef Rick Bayless, with whom he and his family also lived. He traveled in Mexico: visiting restaurants, observing techniques, soaking up vibes. And he worked hard. So very hard. Not just making mouthwatering dishes and dozens of sauces, salsas et al, but also sourcing ingredients and catering and consulting and helping set up other venues.
Heng might well have made more money these last few years with a focus on Tex-Mex / Cal-Mex. But he stuck to his mission and the result is a highly loyal following. It’s not just his cuisine, either. It’s also the recipes and tips and explanations he shares in Pebbles’ WeChat group.
Anyway, expect good deals from December 13 to 15 to mark his tenth year — see the poster below. RSVP is recommended.
And if you haven’t been to Pebbles and want an idea of the food, see this post from a taste test of camarones con arroz (grilled shrimp with chipotle mayo, pickled veggies and buttered rice plus tangy queso fresco), wood-fired grilled garlic chicken with sweet potato mash (including tequila) and whole sea bass grilled butterfly style with red adobo marinade on one half and green on the other. He also does some amazing tacos.
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