ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA – “Food isn’t a new passion. I started cooking when I was just six years old.” Chef Bo Bendana Sein eased back into the stylishly upholstered seat at our table. The last rays of sunlight streamed in from the edge of the Pacific just outside the large patio windows that line the western side of her new restaurant, Mi Casa Supper Club in the San Antonio del Mar community of Rosarito Beach. Dressed in chef whites, her brown and blonde streaked hair flowed from under a colorful bandana. Though not wearing makeup, Chef Bo is stunningly attractive, radiant – appearing at least a decade younger than her forty four years. Her dusty blue eyes sparkled in the setting sun as she continued…
“I lost track of cooking for a while and went to study interior design at the Fashion Institute, my first profession.” Bo’s time at FIT was well spent. The restaurant’s interior boasts delicate mother of pearl chandeliers, large upholstered wooden chairs, luxurious sofas, a fireplace and even two “bubble” chairs from Bali, the backs high enough to create a private, romantic table for two smack dab in the middle of the space. The finishes are all warm wood and earth tones, complementing the vast blue of the sky and ocean outside. The impression given is one of Morocco meets Orange County, Chef Bo’s home country and her last residence in the US before moving here with her husband Dennis nine years ago.
Bo continued, “When things got a little tense in Baja California, no one wanted to go out to eat at night. So we’d go to each other’s homes. That’s when I started cooking again.” This was 2008, when cartel violence had reached a peak in the region. “Collectively, we formed a supper club, and would host weekly dinners in members’ private homes. But as our club became more popular, we outgrew even the largest houses. Our last private dinner had 52 attendees.”
With culinary tourism becoming popular in Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, Bo and Dennis decided it was time to invest in a more permanent restaurant, building Mi Casa Supper Club from the ground up. Since it opened in the summer of 2014, the restaurant has quickly become a favorite of the local expat population and is also gaining popularity with visitors to Baja California. Recently, the restaurant rose to #1 on TripAdvisor for Rosarito Beach.
Just last night, Bo was host to the sold-out second annual Sabor de Baja, a culinary competition and white attire event that she and Dennis organize and manage. A monumental task for sure, the seemingly tireless Bo shows no sign of wear this evening, though is visibly enjoying her break from the kitchen to chat with El Gringo and family. I had helped judge the competition, tasting 17 dishes from Baja’s best chefs, winemakers and craft brewers and Bo had graciously invited us to her restaurant to sample her cooking. Chef Bo refers to her menu – which changes monthly – as “Moroxican”, the application of Moroccan recipes and preparation techniques to locally-culled Baja California ingredients.
Earlier, when we arrived at Mi Casa Supper Club, Bo’s instruction to her head waiter was to “…keep bringing in small plates for them, so they can taste a little bit of everything,” turning to me, she smiled, “You just let us know when to stop.” Not a problem chef! Napkins on laps, glasses of wine poured – and a lemonade for El Gringo’s hijo – we were up to the challenge and ready to enjoy a feast of Chef Bo’s Moroccan-inspired Baja cuisine.
At the end of the evening, Chef Bo asked El Gringo’s 6 year old how he liked the food. He replied, “It was like a present for my mouth”. With Mi Casa Supper Club’s winning combination of Moroccan and Mexican, sweet and savory, delicate and hearty, I would fully agree with his assessment and suggest that you stop by for your own Middle Eastern feast in Baja California. And tell Chef Bo El Gringo sent you!
Your Gringo in Mexico,
Mi Casa Supper Club is located at 54 Estero, San Antonio Del Mar, Rosarito, Mexico – at the entrance to the community of San Antonio Del Mar exit from the toll road. Phone: +52 664 609 3459. Open Thursday & Friday to everyone after 5:00pm. Sunday noon to 8:00pm.