First impressions in NoVA dining: A couple with a farm and a farm-to-table restaurant open a Mexican kitchen.
Bold colors, vibrant artwork and Day of the Dead paraphernalia transport guests immediately upon entering Cocina on Market. Divided into separate rooms, this long, winding restaurant feels unlike most in downtown Leesburg. The Mexican concept comes from husband and wife Jason Lage (chef) and Rebecca Dudley, who also own the subdued and delightful Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville, with its seasonally changing menu and at times wide-ranging dishes (tacos, pho, pasta), and the Americana classic Market Burger, selling its eponymous dish plus fries and shakes and not much else, in Purcellville.
Years in the making (construction, permits, etc.), Cocina on Market offers a variety of ways to take in the many cuisines of Mexico. The bar is stocked with mezcal and tequila (does local drinking count as a cuisine?), and the menu finds room for street food and sit-down affairs.
A tiny housemade corn tortilla (single layer) is filled with unappetizingly chewy carnitas, but the salsa brings it to life. The fresh salsa similarly saves a whole fried fish. While cooked well, the fish lacks seasoning, making squeezes of lime and a heavy hand of bright, cheery and crunchy salsa fresca necessary for every bite.
Modern plating techniques take tuna tostada into arty territory, with guacamole spread beneath half-moons of crunchy tostada, breaking up segments of orange and diced tuna topped with shaved radish. Like avocado in anything, it brings magic. Though maybe the most delicious dish of the meal was a humble bean dip, a mix of light and dark beans, that is creamy and salty and worth paying for, since the gratis basket of chips and salsa ($4) isn’t offered.
Cocina on Market
7 W. Market St., Leesburg
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday
Appetizers: $4-$16; Entrees: $4-$24