Monday, March 5, 2007

Mexico City

I'd been to Mexico City once before (the restaurant, not the actual city, which I hear is beautiful), and I'd liked it a lot. If I remember correctly, I had the ropa vieja, a traditional dish of pulled pork marinated in all sorts of chilies and spices, and I like it. Edan had carne asada tacos, about which she raved. When we found that we hadn't sat down at a restaurant and eaten together in a few weeks (we've been doing a lot of takeout), we decided to try Mexico City again.

Mexico City is divided into two rooms, which cuts the ambiance in half. It looks to me like they added the second room, cutting a big hole in the wall that divided them, and just went with it. The results are very odd. I kept looking at the whole in the wall, which is shaped like a big mirror, feeling slightly surprised I wasn't seeing myself. Both times we've been there we've been seated right at the border of the two rooms, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Edan spent half the meal trying to eavesdrop on the women seated directly behind her, while I spent the other half trying to ignore the table next to me, who were boisterously discussing politics (ugh). This is the main problem with Mexico City -- it is loud. Something about the design of the place (concrete floors, maybe?) makes it echoic. It's not loud like a sports bar, more like a crowded subway station. This might work for a diner, but it's not quite right for a place like Mexico City.

The other thing that isn't quite right is the service. Both times we ate there, the food was a little slow coming out. The servers are perfectly friendly, but they're not terribly good at slinging food in a timely manner (Minor tangent: The first time we ate at Mexico City, I successfully guessed the name of our server, Victor. It just came to me. Usually, I'm totally off, like the guy's name is Justin, and I'm guessing Alexander. Not that time. Victor. I just nailed it. So of course when we went back and had a female server, I went with Victoria. And you know what? Her name was Esther. I guess I went to the Victor/Victoria well one time too many).

So what about the food, you say? To start, they serve very good homemade chips and salsa. The red salsa is terrific -- very spicy, but with subtle flavors (and they don't charge you for it, like some places ahem-Malo-ahem). For an entree, I got the plato de Mexica, a sampler of sorts that came with a chicken taco, a cheese quesadilla, a chicken tostada, and a few other things, including what seemed like a cheese empanada. Edan again got the carne asada tacos. I thought the taco, quesadilla, and empanada were all good, but not earth shattering. There was some sort of taquito on my plate that was very bad. Bland, dry chicken encased in a greasy tortilla shell. I had to drown in it in spicy red salsa to get any flavor at all. Edan's tacos were apparently good, although by the time the food arrived, she was deeply embroiled in our neighbors' discussion and couldn't be reached for comment.

Mexico City is definitely a notch up food-wise from El Coyote, our other Mexican food standby, and it's significantly closer to our apartment. It's definitely more expensive (for two of us, tax and tip included, it was $43), and the margaritas are nowhere near as strong as El Coyote's, though. That being said, the food is lighter, with a complexity of flavor that's lacking from most other Mexican restaurants I've tried, and they have lots of odd Oaxacan dishes on the menu (next time I'm getting the pepper stuffed with chopped beef and pork and chopped apples and pears, covered in a creamy walnut sauce; I just didn't have the balls this time). So while the service and ambiance aren't terrific, I like the food enough to make it a regular place. Of course, not everyone shares my opinion.

No comments: