They can be added to excellent starters such as an Acapulco-style shrimp cocktail with a zesty, citrus-y sauce you'll wish there were more of and giant, puffy shrimps fitted with avocado slices barely clinging to the edge of the glass, or the enfrijolada, the Oaxacan dish featuring a chicken enchilada wrapped in a homemade corn tortilla and covered in a silky and well-herbed dark-as-night black bean sauce.

You can splash the salsas into very good soups as well — perhaps the richly red and spicy Sopa de Tortilla made with chicken broth, crunchy tortilla strips, avocado, and a chunk of salty Oaxacan cheese or the more elegant specialty creation of Northern Mexico called Caldo de Rajas. Packed with mushrooms, poblano peppers, onions, potatoes, and delicate swirls of fresh cream, this earthy, spicy, and garlicky broth, made from chicken stock, is more or less a gourmet cup of comfort by way of a Mexican kitchen.

The larger plates come with side dishes as well conceived as the main attractions, like just-enough bites of perfectly prepared pinto beans sprinkled with Mexican cheese, a simple salad dressed in a housemade lemon vinaigrette and sprinkled with queso fresco, or, my favorite, sautéed corn and bits of poblano pepper with refreshing crema fresca.

Jackie Mercandetti

Location Info


Asi Es La Vida

3602 N. 24th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Category: Restaurant > Dessert

Region: East Phoenix


Así es la Vida
3602 North 24th Street
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Coctel de Camaron: $8.95
Caldo de Rajas: $4.75
Carne Tampiqueña: $15.95
Camaron al Mojo de Ajo: $24.95

You've probably had richer Mexican stews in the Valley, but the ones here are an acceptable lot nonetheless and can be spooned into tortillas for extra flavor. There is a sweet, bitter, and smoky mole poblano and the Pueblan dish chicken tinga, featuring shredded chicken in a mildly spicy and tomatoey chipotle sauce. The best, cochinita pibil, originating from Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, boasts chunks of slow-roasted pork covered in a smooth, vibrant sauce of achiote paste and orange juice accented with slivers of sweet red onions.

Given Así es la Vida's history, you may want to forgo the familiar and order up one of the more unique specialty dishes that helped put Treves' restaurant on the map. Skip the rather ho-hum lamb dish called Borrego Azteca for Carne Tampiqueña, an outstanding plate of thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned Angus sirloin paired with a roasted and soft poblano pepper packed with Chihuahua cheese. Or try the Pescado a la Veracruzana, a tilapia fillet covered in an earthy, spicy mix of tomatoes, capers, onions, and olives in a white wine sauce. It's a refreshing seafood dish with a Spanish slant. But best of all might be the Camaron al Mojo de Ajo, five enormous butterflied shrimp opened up to reveal tender, garlic-flavored white flesh you'd be forgiven for picking up and eating right out of the tails.

For dessert: a small slice of very good flan with a streak of chocolate.

In a somewhat odd turn of events, Rodriguez says, Treves has been back to Así es la Vida recently, bringing in a scrapbook of memories, letters, and photos of his dream, now decades old, to share with others. He's asked Rodriguez if he'd like the old name back, and if he might be interested in a partner.

It would appear this culinary love story isn't over yet. Such is life.

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You missed the whole Altos part of the story..Bernardo, Trish, Dean Bozanno, and myself. What about Altos on 44th and Camelback, and Altos Wine Bar and Bistro on Chandler in Ahwatuckee...a really inaccurate potrayal of it all. What about Chef Moises and his short stint at Coyocan on 7th and South Mountain? The real story is much more interesting...........