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The rich, creamy esquites at Bellota. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Olson Photography

Chef Manuel Barella Crafts Refined Mexican Fare at Bellota

The RiNo restaurant is serving up a street-food-style menu with delicious bites like Chicken-confit-stuffed enmoladas and chicharrón prensado tacos.

Manuel Barella, the chef at nine-month-old Bellota inside the Source, refuses to cook Tex-Mex. “I didn’t want to be another Mexican chef making green chile burritos,” says the native of Monterrey, who worked in the kitchens at Uchi and Boulder’s Frasca Food & Wine before making his debut as the executive chef at Bellota.

Bryan Dayton and Bill Espiricueta, the business partners behind the restaurant—which resides in the space previously occupied by Dayton’s legendary Acorn—were drawn to Barella’s ability to thoughtfully blend traditional recipes with fine-dining techniques.

Diners can taste the care Barella puts into his cooking in dishes like chicken-confit-stuffed enmoladas cloaked in velvety mole negro (a sauce infused with 27 ingredients, including Oaxacan black chilhuacle peppers). Or try the chicharrón prensado taco with rendered pork belly coated with tangy salsa verde, all of which is snuggled inside a fried masa shell.

Barella, though, is proudest of his lime-tinged esquites, an off-the-cob version of elote (street corn) he cooks risotto-style, to coax out the starches in the kernels, and finishes with burnt tortilla aïoli and Cotija cheese. Trust us: You won’t miss the green chile.

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