Back in town for the weekend to celebrate Mom's 75th birthday. Having thoroughly enjoyed my birthday meal last year at Tiffany Derry's Go Fish Ocean Club, and with both Mom and I being big fans of hers, the initial plan was to try her new place, Private Social. Unfortunately no rezzies were available until 9PM, so we shifted gears and headed to Preston Forest shopping center to check out Meso Maya.
The large, open space was hoppin' on a Friday night, with a sizable contingent at the bar and a full dining room. With an open kitchen that spans almost the entire length of one wall it is easy to see why the bar scene is a good one. Despite a sizable crowd waiting in the vestibule just off the entrance, we were promptly seated thanks to having made a reservation.
Menus were offered promptly, with the 2 unused table settings whisked away. Within a minute or two a basket of warm tortilla chips was delivered along with a bowl of fresh, chunky salsa. It was bit spicy for my Mom's palate, but I found it to offer a lovely balance with just a slight bit of zing. Not near as hot as my fave salsa from Herrera's, but just as flavorful. The chips were excellent too, if perhaps a touch on the salty side.
Our waiter, Javier, was knowledgable, friendly and attentive throughout the evening. With the exception of having to request a club soda twice, he was definitely on top of things. After mentioning the evening's specials and making a couple of recommendations he headed off to fetch my La Paloma (think margarita with the refreshing addition of grapefruit soda) and Mom's diet Coke with lime.
We decided to split a Betabeles Salad, and that proved to be a good choice as the serving was entreé-sized, generously heaped on a sizable plate. The salad combines roasted red and gold beets with pepitas and cotija cheese. It was served on a bed a way fresh greens, and beautifully dressed with a tasty guajillo vinaigrette.
For entreés Mom went with the Mushroom and Spinach Enchiladas in a tomatillo sauce and I went with the house specialty, Budin Azteca, opting for the version with chunks of beef tenderloin and roasted potatoes in a guajillo sauce. Both totally lived up to expectations, with both sauces being particular standouts, thus indicating the caliber of the executive chef.
The enchiladas were sided with tasty black beans and excellent white rice, each grain was separate and toothsome, and proved to another indicator of the kitchen's quality.
The Budin Azteca is something akin to Mexican lasagna: a couple of squares of stacked white corn tortillas prepared casserole-style, covered with the rich, red guajillo sauce that was studded with morsels of meat and spud. Queso fresco added a bit of tang, and a sprig of watercress provided some color contrast and a bit of bitter to the proceedings.
I also ordered a side of the Elote Con Crema, and it rocked as mightily as the entreés. Served in a small, rectangular cast-iron pan, it featured roasted white shoe-peg corn in a light, lime-tinged cream sauce and was spiked with queso fresco and a kicky red chile powder.
For dessert we went with Javier's suggestion and shared the Pastel De Moras, a blueberry cake that he described as not too sweet. It was baked and served in a larger cast-iron pan than the one holding the corn, and was topped with a healthy scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. It was delicious… exactly as billed, with the ice cream being a real standout.
The only real misstep of the evening involved the salad. We asked if the kitchen could split it for us, but Javier indicated he would bring a second plate. The salad arrived on a large, rectangular plate and, when we initially asked a manager for a second plate he returned with a woefully small one. We pointed this out to Javier when he stopped by and he promptly returned with 2 properly sized salad plates so we could enjoy our servings.
Bottom line = there is a new place in the regular rotation. Even if it's just to grab a couple of beers or cocktails with some of those yummy chips and salsa, the overall quality and convenient location make this one place that will be easy to hit each time I return home.
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