Quick Facts: Jaguar at the Bistro is an upscale Mexican restaurant located in Youngstown, about 30+ minutes north of the city. Chef/Owner Victor Parra Gonzalez has run the restaurant (formerly Bistro at Old Fort Inn) since November 2013. The menu is comprised of classic Mexican dishes from Victor’s childhood in Acapulco, but served with a modern twist. Appetizers will run from $9-12 and entrees range from $25-40. The bar has over a dozen different bottles of tequilas/mescal, with many more coming. They are open for dinner service on Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday starting at 4pm. You can make reservations on OpenTable.
Our Meal: We arrived to the restaurant on a snowy Saturday as a group of eight people so we could try as much of the menu as possible. Our meal started with an amuse of that evening’s Atole (corn soup) that floored the entire dining party. The combination of sweet corn soup and mezcal cream was outstanding. The staff did a great job pacing our meal, giving us enough time to enjoy each course and still have time for conversation. The Chicken Tamal with mole sauce was a huge crowd-pleaser. Victor’s mole is still something Alli and I talk about daily. It was rich, complex and perfectly executed. I’ve never had a mole locally that has even come close to how good it was. The Chilaquiles Rojos (tortillas tossed in a tomato broth, topped with a sunny side egg and queso fresco) and Queso Fundido (six cheese melted together topped with cactus salad) were Mexican comfort foods done right, something I’d love to eat with a good beer and sporting event but can still appreciate while having a proper dining experience. The Barbacoa (short rib braised for 8 hours), Pork Carnitas (braised pork that’s pan fried), Yellowtail Snapper and Lengua (beef tongue finished tableside) were not only presented beautifully, but each plate was filled with a variety of outstanding flavors and textures. My favorite entree was the Barbacoa, which was cooked perfectly, tender and with a delicious red sauce on a creamy white risotto. The portions were appropriate for single diners and also large enough to share with the entire table.
Summary: While we still haven’t visited South Buffalo’s critically acclaimed Valle De Mexico, we can safely say the food we had at Jaguar at the Bistro is the best Mexican food we’ve had in Western New York. I would even go as far to say the meal was one of the best we’ve had at any restaurant so far in 2015. What Chef Gonzalez is doing in Youngstown is impressive, marrying classic Mexican dishes and flavors with modern techniques and creative touches. Much like Carmelo’s in Lewiston, if this restaurant was ~20 minutes closer to the city it would be impossible to get a reservation. We think local foodies should take advantage of Jaguar’s relative low profile and make the trip out to Youngstown as soon as possible. It’s really that good.
Can’t Miss Dish: It’s not on the menu, but the Etole is mind-melting good and whatever the daily Tamal special is, order it. Otherwise, we highly recommend sticking to the Mexican classics. We also highly recommend following The Taco Project, his taco pop-up collaboration with Chef Carmelo Raimondi. We visited their first event at Ashker’s and were blown away (pictured blow), the tacos (and sweet tamal) were some of the best we’ve ever had.
Photo Gallery from Jaguar at the Bistro:
Photo Gallery from The Taco Project: