The strip center’s location (way up north), its minimalist decor, and heck, the restaurant’s name all belie the sophistication of this gem. (Belly initially opened in 2020 in a different location, closed during the pandemic, and reopened late last year.) The intriguing bill of fare leans Mexican, but the chef clearly includes some dishes because he just likes them. Case in point, a fine-looking saag paneer sits comfortably on the menu between classy empanadas (potato, crème fraiche, and caviar), hamachi tiradito, and birria/queso tacos. Our starters blew us away. We savored a leg and thigh of pato pibil, crispy skinned duck, glazed in a sultry pibil sauce topped with pickled red onion, in a pool of thin, smoky black bean gravy and served with fresh-made corn tortillas. (Add the fiery charred habanero sauce if you dare.) We also shared the spring salad, a pretty plate of freshness—mixed local greens scattered with cubes of Manchego cheese and jícama, razor-thin slices of radish, red onions, and strawberries, and crunchy walnuts in the lightest creamy mustard vinaigrette. The kitchen also rocked our socks with fresh-made pasta. The featured mezzaluna, half-moon pasta filled with ricotta and sweet peas (in a satiny champagne butter sauce, topped with four perfectly seared scallops) was all gussied up with prosciutto pieces, escabeche mushrooms (those cute little shimejis), and tendrils of bright micro greens. Meanwhile, carne asada rated a masterful treatment: Perfectly seasoned bavette steak, grilled medium-rare, is sliced and served with frijoles aligot (a velvety blend of refried beans and cheese) and more of those house-made tortillas. From the gracious hospitality to the thoughtful menu and presentations, there’s an elegance here that has captured our heart. We’re committed to a long-distance relationship.