For tacos and a time limit, pass by Sol y Luna

Dim light creeps its way throughout the cramped dining room through stained-glass lighting fixtures that caused the room’s Spanish-style decor to glow with a rich, orange hue. The lemons and leaves draping from the ceiling create a convincing outdoor ambiance. It was like eating underneath a weeping willow tree right before sunset. This is Sol y Luna.

Along the walls hang various paintings of the sun and moon highlighting the central theme of the restaurant. A mural is painted across the main wall with Latin artists and entertainers like Frida Kalho and Cantinflas depicted at a large table. It ties in the culture with the atmosphere of the restaurant beautifully.

The waiting area inside consists of one bench and a bar stool next to the host’s desk. So a total of three people can sit inside comfortably while the rest either stand inside and crowd the doorway, or wait outdoors. On the outside you’ll find a hand carved, two-seater bench and a lovely railing surrounding the storefront’s perimeter. The wait could range anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour. Happy standing.

Sol y Luna 2 085

The guacamole prepared with red onion, tomato and cilantro served tableside was my favorite part of the experience. In fact, it was the only item I found worth returning for. Warning: this is not complementary. The server will conveniently offer it you as you are being seated and, no, they will not tell you that it costs extra. You’ll figure that out once you open the menu. Just be prepared to spend $9 on a molcajete bowl full of guacamole and a basket of chips; that’s all I’m saying.

For my appetizer I chose the shrimp ceviche. The shrimp was finely chopped along with the tomato and red onion. Cilantro and avocado topped the mixture as a tiny slice of orange served as the garnish. The lime juice was used generously in the preparation of this starter course causing it to pack a tart punch. The appetizer itself was beautifully presented, but the taste is nothing special; it can easily be replicated at home.

Burrito de Camaron, one of Sol y Luna’s entrées, was stuffed with grilled shrimp, white rice with a hint of citrus, pico de gallo, avocado and beans. From the first bite, I could tell that they had used fresh saltwater shrimp. The shrimps had that buttery smooth texture when you bite into them. The pico de gallo was virtually nonexistent; the rice had a good flavor but it was a tad chewy; and the avocado wasn’t evenly distributed throughout the burrito so when I finally reached it, it was brown and mushy. Aside from the savory shrimp, the rest of the ensemble was not spectacular.

One of the desserts, the Jericalla, is described as personal-sized confection that is the Mexican twist on crème brûlèe. When I sunk my spoon into the thin, burnt cocoa colored glaze it dipped through with ease and I was hopeful. However, this vanilla crème flavored dessert had the identical consistency of flan. I wasn’t thrilled with the texture because quite frankly, if I wanted the flan I would’ve ordered it.

On my first visit I spent a little over $60 for an appetizer, two entrées and one dessert. Needless to say, this restaurant is not reasonably priced, nor is it “college student on a budget” friendly.

On my second visit I was notified by one of the waitresses that a customer must spend at least $8 per person or else they would charge a fee to make up the difference. The message wasn’t delivered in the most hospitable manner so when I found out that our total was only $4 short of the necessary sum I was a little peeved.

If the restaurant is going to have this policy it needs to place the notice somewhere where people can actually see it, not on the last page of the menu in fine print.

As I continued reading their terms and conditions I was surprised at the list of additional conditions that you must adhere to:

ü  no checks

ü  a maximum of two split checks per table

ü  a maximum two hour seating limit during dinner hours

In hindsight I’m glad I went back a second time; it solidified my opinion even more. The taste of the food overall and the quality of service amounted to a mediocre experience at best. There is a small margin between a good restaurant and a great one and it is made evident here. Bottom line: this restaurant requires too much work for such an unremarkable menu.

Address: 19601 Ventura Blvd. Tarzana, CA91356

Phone: 818.343.8488

Hours: Everyday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Happy Hour: Monday – Friday: 3 – 6 p.m.