Man, I have seen a lot of good feedback on twitter about this place. I have to say, I am always a little suspicious about places when I see SO much tweeting and re-tweeting. I don't know why exactly, but call me a cynic. Do people REALLY like it that much or are they just excited to try the hot new place? Anyhow, I am writing this post based on two visits which is not my normal way to do it, but I felt like since I only had one of the tacos before we ended up leaving the first time (I did have other things), I couldn't talk about a taco place without getting more.
On the first night, the first thing I noticed was the noise. Seriously, one of the loudest restaurants I can remember. I mean, the place is obviously popular, but it also is just really, really, loud. We ordered some chips and guacamole ($6) to start. I liked it. Lots of big hunks of avocado, and lots of lime. It was very tangy. Not super spicy, but nicely seasoned with onions. I also had a house margarita ($6), which was good too.
We decided to split one of the tortas and figure out which tacos we wanted in the meantime. So we go the Milanesa torta ($8), which had a deep fried breaded chicken cutlet, arugula, black beans, avocado, and a lemon mayo, with salsa verde on the side. It is on a firm bread called a telera roll. I was impressed with how tender the chicken was even though it was flattened and fried. It was nice and crispy and still moist and tender. The other things on it really added a nice combo of flavors—you can’t go wrong with more avocado, and that plus the black beans gave it a creamy rich consistency and it had a fair amount of acidity from the aioli. I was actually surprised at how much acid both the first two items had.
We only got the huitlacoche taco ($4) that night because the torta had been so big (and the guac is a large order as well) that we were pretty full (and we were having a hard time talking to each other because of the noise level). This was the biggest disappointment for me of the evening. The tacos are smallish, but very full—this one with corn truffles, roasted poblano peppers, onions, corn, cotija cheese, and cilantro. What is a corn truffle you ask? Well, it’s basically fungus that grows on corn (aka “corn smut” which probably doesn’t sound as appetizing). It is supposed to be a delicacy in Mexico, but the whole thing just seemed kind of bland to me, particularly compared to the other things, which seemed to have a lot more flavor (and acid). Some of the salsa on the table helped (I liked the green salsa the best).
On the second visit, I was there with hubby and my friend wibia and his wife. We got guacamole again as well as the queso with chorizo ($6). Honestly, the guac had about the same flavor, but I thought the chunks of avocado were just too big this time. You couldn’t even scoop it out with a chip they were so big. A little bit more mashing would be a good thing. The queso wasn’t bad—you can’t go wrong with a little melted cheese with your chips (and I appreciated the server’s suggestion to get the queso and chip and then a side of guac to save a few bucks). The chorizo was a little over-fried I thought and kind of dry.
We did try the premium margaritas ($12) this time which I did like a little better than the regular ones because they were less tart, but they come in a really narrow glass that doesn’t have a big enough rim for the salt, and whenever you drank from it, the salt ended up on your nose. We asked them to make our second one in a different glass and they were happy to oblige. They were strong as well. Strong, but very tasty. But I am not totally sure they are worth double the price of the house margaritas.
So hubby and I decided to just try all the tacos except the vegetarian ones. (The tacos are all $4 each). The tortillas are homemade and are quite good. My favorite was definitely the fish taco. It was fried mahi with a nice crunch and a nice limey Tabasco flavored sauce and citrusy slaw. It was a good balance—the fish was tender but crunchy on the outside, the lime shone through, and it had a nice slight heat. The slaw gave it the fresh crunchy taste. My next favorite was probably the mole, which was chicken (but it was braised in the mole sauce which had a deep spice to it). It was served with pickled onions and queso fresco. It had a complex flavor and I loved the pickled onions with it.
Honestly, the rest of the tacos were not bad but none blew me away. I preferred the short rib on the short rib torta ($9) based on the bite I had of our friends’ sandwich. The bread was just a better conduit for the very rich hearty meat—and the flavors on the sandwich were really good together (it was more balanced with more cheese, caramelized onions, arugula and black beans). There was just too much meat to other ingredients ratio on the taco. We had both the pork tacos and I have to say, all the braised meat starting running together. The pastor had a lot of pineapple though, which made it stand out somewhat, although for me, not in a good way, because it sort of dominated the taste. The chicken verde had the pickled red onions too, but the chicken itself was just okay.
|Here's a picture with a flash. Not very pretty, but you can see them better|
So my problem is that the tacos—well, other than the fish-- just didn’t really wow me that much. And this time, we got seated downstairs, which may have been a touch more quiet (barely) but the place, even fairly early on a Wednesday, was heaving, and was still really, really loud. But at least my ears weren’t ringing the next day like they were after my first visit (seriously I worry about the staff’s hearing). But top the noise level issue off with the fact that the tables downstairs are picnic tables with no backs, and hubby has basically declared he will probably be unlikely to return. So I guess maybe we’re just too old for this place or something. Or maybe it is just so popular because it’s new and pretty reasonably priced, and the food isn’t bad, and maybe it will calm down at some point. But I have heard of people being told there was a three-hour wait at times. No way would I wait that. (Our first visit we did have to wait about 30 minutes for a table on a Friday night).
The service is good—both times I was there, our servers were knowledgeable and the service was prompt. Both times the two different women checked in regularly and made sure we had what we needed. It’s run well, it’s just too damn loud. At least for me.
334 Massachusetts Ave