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Tocolo Cantina in Garden City: First bites

Short-rib fundido with melted Chihuahua cheese, raisins and

Short-rib fundido with melted Chihuahua cheese, raisins and pine nuts is served at Tocolo Cantina in Garden City. (January 2015) Photo Credit: Newsday / Peter M. Gianotti

Fresh and refreshing, Tocolo Cantina will change what you think of Mexican cuisine on Long Island.

It's Mexican, California-style. Here, that means ceviches, guacamole with tuna or mango, green kale salad with agave dressing, and some of the liveliest tacos in either Nassau or Suffolk. There's only one dish with refried beans on the menu.

The sharp dining room is just as appealing as the refreshing cuisine: airy, streamlined, modern, decorated with art suggesting San Francisco's Mission District. Tocolo Cantina is situated in The Gallery at Westbury Plaza, on the east side, near Trader Joe's and Starbucks.

Standouts early on include Yucateco guacamole with mango, habanero chiles, red onion and pepper; and another with radish, Fresno pepper, chile arbol and that tasty tuna. The ceviche of hamachi, accented with gooseberries, is terrific. Savory, melted Chihuahua cheese fundido arrives with mushrooms, chorizo, or with short rib,  raisins and pine nuts.

Excellent margaritas and other cocktails, too, plus spirited desserts and an obligatory Mexican hot chocolate.

Don't wait till Cinco de Mayo.

Tocolo Cantina, 920 Old Country Rd. (at Zeckendorf Boulevard), Garden City; 516-222-0060.

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