The Día de Los Muertos colorful mural greets me when I arrive at Como, the newest Mexican restaurant located in Brickelltown in downtown Truckee. The mural is painted on the light beige bricks of the mission-styled room. As I walk past the kitchen and into the back area, the setting shifts to a Japanese-inspired ambience and I am in Roco, which features a mural of a female samurai. The sister restaurants under one roof operate out of a shared kitchen. It’s the brainchild of restaurateurs Ryan Dierks and Chris St. Martin, owners of Truckee Tavern and Grill.
“We wanted to create something affordable and decided on tacos and ramen. We like both cuisines.” — Chris St. Martin
“When we were coming up with the design, we wanted a counterbalance to what we built with the tavern in terms of price point and menu. We wanted to create something affordable and decided on tacos and ramen. We like both cuisines” said St. Martin.
Dierks and St. Martin spent time researching options; they traveled to New York, San Francisco and the Bay Area to check out other Mexican and ramen restaurants that had received great reviews. Ambience, service, food and bar programs were all key factors they explored.
“We have two full bars, one featuring Mexican cocktails and agave spirits and Roco features Japanese spirits, Japanese whiskey, gin, sake and shochu, a Japanese distilled rice spirit,” said Dierks, one of the best cocktail mixologists in Truckee. “Chris and I are both fans of hip-hop. We inject that into the space along with the graffiti to create a unique experience. Hip-hop is a cultural movement that spans the globe.”
French-trained executive chef Nathan Lapating has worked at Truckee Tavern for the last three years and was the natural choice for running the kitchen for Roco + Como. He was instrumental in the design of the kitchen.
Chef Lapating brought out a new item from the Roco menu: a scallop crudo appetizer served with grapefruit, red onions and micro radish from Tahoe Microgreens, topped with a delightful aqua chile. It was delicious, light and fresh.
Next was a seared ahi tuna with black garlic and a miso aioli. It was amazing. I loved the aioli and garlic. Next he served Como street tacos: al pastor braised pork with pineapple cilantro and red-onion salsa; carne asada topped with a pico de gallo and fish tacos with mango habanero salsa. Each taco had the perfect spice temperature and was tasty. The last dish I had was the chicken ramen bowl served with arugula, shredded carrots and a soft-boiled, marinated egg; it was awesome. The broth was rich and flavorful and I loved the arugula and carrots with the ramen noodles.
Dierks hopped behind the bar and returned with three cocktails: a Shiso Old Fashioned made with Japanese whiskey; the Cho Matcha made with Japanese gin, lemon, ginger, rosemary, matcha and egg whites; and a Tepache Cocktail prepared with tepache, mezcal, pineapple, lime and nutmeg. Each was unique and creative. I am a fan of Japanese whiskey, so I loved the Shiso Old Fashioned. Flights of tequila are offered on the Como menu and Japanese whiskey flights on the Roco menu. We finished with homemade flan and it was excellent.
Roco opened in June and Como in September. Some new items for fall include a roasted half chicken, Spanish rice and mole on the Como menu and fried rice bowls on Roco’s. Dierks and St. Martin are committed to the same philosophy they employ at Truckee Tavern.
“We use the best products. All of our products are made in house; there’s no cutting corners. We are just offering good food, good drinks at an affordable price. The only thing that isn’t made in house is the ramen, which is prepared offsite by Sun Noodle,” St Martin said.
Patrons can order from either restaurant whether they are seated in Roco or Como. There are options for every palate and dietary preference.
“Our goal is to create a neighborhood vibe,” Dierks said. | (530) 587-6247, rocotruckee.com