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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Authentic Mexican Fare Makes for a Grand Fiesta

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
October 6, 2013

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It is often said that you call tell a good Mexican restaurant by its beans and rice. If the traditional use of pinto beans and Spanish rice are both flavorful and spiced up in their own right, it’s a solid indication that you’re in a great spot for an authentic meal.

Luckily for Hawaii’s diners, Grand Leyenda Cantina passes the test on both and is the latest eatery to offer a true taste of Mexico. Located at Ward Center, Grand Leyenda presents a breezy, contemporary setting featuring an outdoor lounge and a stylish bar with more than 300 types of tequila on display, all together creating an exciting approach to Mexican dining.

“It has the rustic colors of old Mexico, but it has the modern design quality of a newer Mexico,” says general manager Jeremy Yoza, when describing the eatery’s spacious, refreshing interior.

To taste a range of the authentic flavors Grand Leyenda has to offer, go with Combination No. 2 ($17.99). It’s served with a mild chile relleno (stuffed chile) made from smoked poblano peppers filled with cheese and made divine with a fluffy egg batter. Fresh salsa verde tops off the mouthwatering chile, while salsa rojo, or ranchero, smothers an absolutely delicious chicken tamale, which is Mama’s secret recipe cooked daily in the kitchen. Without a doubt, it’s the real deal.

All of Grand Leyenda’s entrees come with huge heaps of traditional beans and rice, which are best when mixed together and enjoyed with each bite.

Yoza also suggests trying a Combination Taco Plate ($14.99), featuring your choice of any three tacos. Select from sumptuous options such as carne asada (traditional barbecue-style steak), grilled marinated chicken and shrimp, among others. A vegan-friendly taco with grilled vegetables and pico de gallo also is available.

Pictured in this combo plate are three ensenada-style fish tacos prepared with Mexican beer battered basa, a flaky white fish similar to cod. They are dressed up with shredded lettuce, homemade pico de gallo and a creamy ensenada-style fish sauce.

Sweet tooths will fall in love with an Apple Chimichanga ($6.99), which is comprised of homemade apple filling rolled in a crispy flour tortilla and served with vanilla ice cream and special Mexican icing. Patrons may also drink their dessert in the form of cocktails, such as Legend Cadillac ($15 for 16 ounces), a shave ice-style tequila drink put together with Grand Leyenda’s own brand of organic Tequila Reposado, house premium margarita mix, Grand Marnier and more.

The restaurant takes advantage of its prime location in the Ward area to offer cool evening events throughout the week. Enjoy live music and 75 cent taquitos on Tres Tuesdays, Grand Leyenda’s version of Taco Tuesdays; Live Lounge Thursdays features open mic nights and $2 beers; Pau Hana Fridays liven up with live music and the infamous “Monstarita,” a margarita made with Monster Energy Drink®; and Grand Saturdays, the newest event in which the eatery is transformed into a night club with two DJs and drink specials.

Grand Leyenda boasts happy hour every day as well, from 4 to 7 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. until closing. Devour treats like nachos, ceviche and chipotle chicken wings from the $5 menu and sip on draft Mexican beers for $3 and house margaritas for $5.

When it comes to finding a true Mexican feast, Grand Leyenda shines with authenticity.

Grand Leyenda Cantina

Ward Center, second floor
1200 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
597-1725
Open daily, 11 a.m.-midnight
During special events, open until 2 a.m.