Gema puts a unique spin on upscale Mexican food in Orange County

High-end Mexican food in Orange County has truly emerged and Gema in San Clemente is the latest restaurant to be added to the growing list. However, the cuisine you’ll find at Gema is truly unique, using ingredients not so common with Mexican cuisine.

Imported and locally sourced ingredients

All of the ingredients you’ll find at Gema come from local farmers’ markets and are imported directly from Mexico. For example, when you order a salad, you may find slight variations in the types of vegetables and fruits depending on what is available. Their Duranzo Salad is a perfect example of an ever-changing dish that reflects our local markets.


Mezcal Room

When you’re ready for cocktails, a unique feature at Gema in San Clemente is their fabulous pink mezcal room. The shelves feature a wide variety of delicious mezcals available to sample. Guests can enjoy one of their many amazing mezcal cocktails like La Passion with Amaro and passion fruit or a Chicatana ant salt mezcal tasting flight.

Her Pink Mezcal Room will even feature “La Biblioteca,” Gema’s own mezcal program that allows guests to purchase and store mezcal by the bottle. A modern take on classic locker shows, The Library features open shelves showcasing unique mezcal bottles with personalized leather labels as identification for their owners. The program is intended to inspire guests to explore the vast world of Mexican mezcal.


Stuffed Chili

One of my favorite dishes at Gema is their signature Chile Relleno. Hazelnut crust not only lends itself to a beautiful presentation, but also the perfect crunch to the last bite. The Chile Relleno is rested in a tomato foam, covered with a quail egg and filled with quesillo and huitlacoche (a Mexican delicacy).



Molletes are a traditional Mexican “peasant meal” where you take leftover tortillas or bread and top it with whatever ingredients you can find in the kitchen. These are usually beans and cheese, eaten with an open face. Molletes en Gema is a dish that cannot be missed and includes Quesillo cheese, Bayo bean spread, Tatuma squash and heirloom tomato. This elevated twist on the plate is incredibly fresh, flavorful, and crave-worthy.

Unique Mexican Food in Orange County

Grasshoppers, Ants and Huitlacoche Oh My

When it comes to Mexican food in Orange County, you rarely find a restaurant that is willing to go out of the box. This is not the case with Gema, which featured hidden, not-so-common ingredients, such as the “grasshopper cream” that appears in the Camarones Flameados and the Huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy in Mexico.

The ingredients are so subtle that in most cases, you would never know they are present. Each component simply adds to the overall harmonious flavors of each dish.


Sweep of Nothing

If you’re feeling adventurous, their Barria de Res is a tender rib with corn cake, guajillo chili glaze, candied chamray onion, garden mix, and a side of grasshoppers.


Halibut Al Pastor

Halibut al pastor presents a more non-traditional but authentic variation on this achiote-spiced dish. It is accented with a wonderfully balanced pineapple foam and serrano puree.

Gema-Wagyu steak

wagyu steak

I highly recommend slicing their MB-8 Australian Wagyu Filet with tamarind marinade, along with au gratin potatoes accented with purslane salad.

chef cross

Chef Cruz, who attended culinary school in Mexico City, has brought his knowledge of indigenous ingredients and traditional techniques to Gema in San Clemente.

“What excites me is being able to marry ingredients from Mexico with great seasonal produce and high-quality protein to create a dish that brings authenticity to Mexican food in Orange County.”

chef cross


Health awareness

While dining at Gema, one thing you’ll notice as soon as you take your first bite is the healthy and thoughtful preparation. Gema’s menu is committed to vegan and vegetarian lifestyle options and clean eating, with the exclusive use of avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.

Many traditionally fried dishes, like chiles rellenos, use unique preparations to maintain the same level of crunch without the fat.

Nearly every dish at Gema is also gluten-free by using corn tortillas and cornbread croutons.

When it comes to Mexican food in Orange County, there really is no restaurant that can compete with the authenticity and unique ingredients Chef Cruz has created for Gema.


110 South El Camino Real in San Clemente

Tuesday – Thursday 5pm – 9pm

Friday and Saturday 5pm – 10pm

Reservations: 714-640-9371

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