Monday, June 9, 2008

Zocalo Cocina Mexicana, Brighton

Boston may rank as one of my favorite cities, however I have found that restaurants around here do not do "ethnic" foods very well. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, there are some stand out Italian places, a few great Indian, a couple of fantastic Thai, and some fantastic Sushi. However I have found that for truly out of this world Mexican food, Boston is just not the right city. Of course I enjoy a few places just to get my fix once in a while, Border Cafe, for one, Ole Mexican Grill as another, but neither "blow my socks off" so to speak as fantastic restaurants fully encompassing the cuisine of the land.

Saturday evening I revisited Zocalo Cocina Mexicana, a Mexican restaurant located on Comm Ave in Brighton (Allston?) that opened a couple of years ago. This was not my first visit to Zocalo, though I haven't been in quite some time. The space is open and airy, and decorated nicely in the theme of Mexico. Something about the openness of the restaurant though, or perhaps its the wall of booths, just doesn't scream "authentic" to me. Unfortunately, it sets the tone of another ho hum Mexican restaurant in Boston.

We started dinner with Elote, corn on the cob, char grilled, and then seasoned with Crema Mexicana, lime juice, queso fresca, and chile spice. Crema Mexicana is a creme fraiche type of cheese, with a semi sweet taste to it. This had been blended with the lime juice, queso fresca, which had a similar consistency to a feta cheese, and the chile. Unfortunately, I did not get too much of the chile spice when I was eating the corn, though the other flavors were really quite tasty. It was a tasty appetizer, however the portion was very small and almost left you with a feeling of - "now what?" as you finished it in record time.

I selected their Pollo al Carbon as my main course. This was a grilled chicken breast topped with orange sections, jalapeno peppers, a pickled onion salsa and cilantro. It was served with rice and black beans. I enjoyed the lightness of this dish, it felt very summery and something that I could imagine being an authentic meal, however I didn't think it was very well executed. I really enjoy spicy foods, but I enjoy being able to taste the other flavors as well. The chicken was over powered by the jalapenos so that even the sweetness of the orange sections weren't able to cut through it. Unfortunately, the pickled onions were a bit over powered as well, and they were part I was most looking forward to after having something similar in Aruba a few months ago. The rice was rather dry unfortunately, and so did not make an acceptable side dish to it. The black beans were fine, though obviously intended only to be a side dish.

We decided to share a dessert of chocolate bread pudding served with a raspberry sauce and whipped cream. The presentation of this was very nice, a ball of dark rich bread pudding served on the red raspberry sauce with three dollops of whipped cream around it. The pudding was incredibly chocolaty, and actually I found that I could have used a bit more sauce and whipped cream to balance it. However overall, I found it pretty tasty-something I would definitely order again.

Zocalo is an acceptable place for seemingly authentic Mexican food. It is by no means a fantastic restaurant, but when you're in the mood for a little south of the border grub- it will do the trick.

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