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At Casa Azul, Mexican tacos with ambition

When a chef from Acupulco with fine-dining impulses joins forces with a purveyor of tricked-out food truck arancini, you get Casa Azul tacos.

They are among the most ambitious tacos in town. They start with three types of housemade corn tortillas, and end with a tacklebox of finishing touches like pomegranate pips, chicken skin chicharron, and candied pumpkin seeds. These are premium tacos at a premium price, from $2.50 for calabazas, squash with tomatoes and epazote, to a $6 fish taco.

At 128 Genesee St., the first floor of the former Dog e Style has been converted to a taqueria by Victor Parra Gonzalez and Zina Lapi. Customers order beverages at the counter, non-alcoholic for now, but well worth consideration.

They include agua frescas, Mexican fruit drinks, like refreshing watermelon-mint ($3), an outstanding spicy chocolate shake with cinnamon ($4.50), and other Mexican specialties like atole ($4.50), a sweet corn-based drink.

Glimpse through front wall of Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Glimpse through front wall of Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The tacos and tortas are made in the open kitchen in the back. On Dec. 6, the restaurant's second day of operation, a vertical roaster held a stack of marinated pork. Gonzalez sliced pieces from it to fill taco orders. That's the way al pastor tacos are usually made in Mexico, where the roaster, similar to equipment used for authentic gyro or shawarma, is called a trompo. Casa Azul is the only trompo currently used in Buffalo.

Staff prepares tacos, including al pastor from a vertical broiler, glowing at center, at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Staff prepares tacos, including al pastor from a vertical broiler, glowing at center, at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The al pastor taco ($2.75) was a satisfying combination of pork and pineapple, on a supple tortilla. Three and a cerveza sounds like a good idea one day. Casa Azul plans to eventually offer cocktails and plate dinners on the second floor.

Al pastor (pork and pineapple) taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Al pastor (pork and pineapple) taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The pork and pineapple, as well as the chicken, is also available in a torta ($7), a Mexican sandwich, on housemade rolls. They're chewy, but toast up well. With herbed mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and marinated onions, it's an enjoyable sandwich.

Al pastor (pork and pineapple) torta at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Al pastor (pork and pineapple) torta at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

I didn't try the taco of braised and pickled tongue ($4) or crispy fried sweetbreads ($4.50), but did enjoy the lamb-like flavor of birria, braised goat, with avocado salsa.

Birria (briased goat) taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Birria (briased goat) taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The vegetarian tacos were solid, with the braised squash ($2.50), with candied pepitas and cotija cheese, on the saucy side.

Calabazas (squash) taco with candied pumpkin seeds at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Calabazas (squash) taco with candied pumpkin seeds at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The potato and poblano chile taco ($3) was topped with spiced nuts.

Potato, poblano and spicy nut taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Potato, poblano and spicy nut taco at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The carne asada taco ($4.75, pictured as lead image) included marinated, grilled steak that was still pink in the middle. Other standouts included a chicken taco ($3), of dark meat braised then grilled, which arrived missing its promised chicken skin chicharron.

Chicken taco with herb salsa verde at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Chicken taco with herb salsa verde at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

The fish taco ($6), arriving on an eye-catching crimson tortilla, dyed with beet juice, made a terrific sea snack. I bet it would have been even better with the spicy pickled onions I was promised. Inconsistency is a problem for established restaurants, much less ones open for two days, so I wasn't surprised by missing ingredients.

Fish taco with avocado cream at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Fish taco with avocado cream at Casa Azul. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Casa Azul's tacos are promising, and worth a visit, unless you prefer tacos made of ground beef. You can find those lots of places, but Casa Azul has the only trompo in town.

Info: Casa Azul, 128 Genesee St., 331-3869. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Send restaurant tips to agalarneau@buffnews.com and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.

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