Monday, March 4, 2013

Papagayo, South Boston



A couple of years ago it seemed that every restaurant that opened throughout Boston was opening in the Mexican genre.  In a city that readily admitted its lack of Mexican food (even more so its lack of GOOD Mexican food) we were suddenly inundated with options.  I kept up for a while, hitting the new spots as they popped up, eating more than my fair share of guacamole, and then I grew a little tired of the trend and turned my attention back to other cuisines.  That is, until this past Saturday night.  I was craving spice- I wanted some heat , and I thought that without overdoing Pho, maybe it was time to return to the Mexican influx.  So, with Jason nicely obliging my craving, we settled on checking out Papagayo located in the Fort Point Channel of South Boston.
Papagayo opened early in the fray, and won quite a few accolades for their culinary prowess.  It was at the top of my list for Mexican places to check out.  It sits on Summer Street, a location just over the bridge into Southie making it convenient to the Financial District patrons, and keeping it away from hub bub that has become the Fort Point Channel water front hot spot.  It is a massively large restaurant for downtown Boston.  However, even still, at 6:30 on a wet, cold Saturday evening we were received to a 45 minute wait.  This place has maintained its street cred, and the crowds are still flocking.

Luckily, Papagayo is prepared for their long waits offering a variety of spots for patrons to wait, enjoy a drink (or two….or three) and nosh on a little appetizer.  We opted for their freshly made guacamole, and out wheeled a cart with a gentleman ready to mix it there in front of us.  He inquired about our level of desired spice and then set to work combining the traditional ingredients for guacamole.  The finished product was a delightful mix of avocado, not too much lime juice, tomatoes, onion, and a healthy does of chopped jalapenos.  The accompanying chips were fresh, crisp and salty making them a wonderful vehicle for the dip.  I enjoyed the specified heat level to this guacamole, and the ability to see it made to order.  The acid level was correct and simply enhanced the dense, rich fruit.  Over all, a pretty good guac.

Once we were seated at our long awaited table, we were able to peruse the full menu.  Having had a pretty healthy portion of chips and guacamole my appetite had lessened and I settled on their Fish Tacos.  Served simply, three soft shell tacos were set in front of me with large pieces of pan cooked Tilapia, set atop a cabbage slaw and topped with a healthy dose of tomatillo salsa.  I learned from our server that apparently the salsa was a response to my request (because Im nuts) for the tacos to be made extra spicy.  The kitchen wasn’t shy to comply and piled on the spicy salsa.  I was incredibly grateful, the salsa was perfectly acidic with a great heat that actually numbed the back of my throat after a few bites.  It was exactly what I wanted.  The fish was well cooked with a slight crispness to its outer most sides and a nice, natural flavor.  The cabbage had been tossed lightly in a mayo based dressing and lent both texture and creaminess to the dish.  These were filling, yet light tacos that perfectly hit the spot for what I wanted that night.

I was pleasantly surprised with Papagayo.  Despite the fact that it is very much a “scene” and was hosting numerous large parties that evening, they were able to award all of their patrons- even that little two top in the corner, great service, accommodating custom requests and keeping it all up beat and friendly.  Their fare was    

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