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Boston Area Mexican

Cilantro Mexican restaurant, Salem

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Cilantro Mexican restaurant, Salem

Lori | Nov 20, 2002 11:04 AM

Centro, medio. Four of us braved the wind and wet to have dinner on Saturday. I had enjoyed a good lunch there a few months back so was looking forward to a tasty and authentic Mexican dinner. I recommended to the other couple that we go...

The margueritas were, well...margueritas, 'nough said. We shared two appetizer options: tamales, and the combo (banderillas, sopes and xalapenos rellenos, with hot[?] sauce on the side). The combo platter was just what we were craving--sopes (like little Mexican pizzas) were piquant, topped with appropriate reserve, and perfectly cooked. Though I didn't try the xalapenos rellenos (xalapeno pepper stuffed with cheddar cheese, then battered and fried), my husband really liked them. The banderillas are fresh-tasting little rolled cigar-shaped munchies filled with ?. The tamales, on the other hand, were a huge disappointment--thickly, spongily doughy, so much so that you couldn't distinguish the chicken filling, which may or may not have been good.

Entrees included Tampiquena (filet mignon strips, enchiladas, seasoned rice, poblano rajas, lettuce, guacamole, refried black beans, queso fresco); and Puntas a La Mexicana (beef tenderloin tips cooked with chopped xalapeno, onions, garlic, tomato, spices, served with seasoned rice and refried black beans). Kudos all around for the fantastic refried black beans, just the right amount of smooth to chunk and perfectly spiced, not at all gloppy. Both appetizers and entrees are graced with them as a side, and we ordered extra chips to scrape up every little bit. Rice so-so. Filet mignon strips out of this world tender, with just enough Mexican flavor to enhance the beef's personality. The Puntas a La Mexicana must be Mexican comfort food, 'cause everyone kept dipping into it and making noises like it transported them. But, what's the most pervasive complaint about typical Mexican fare? What always appears on the plate as limp, tired, wet, and, for the most part, indistinguishable? Enchiladas, and Cilantro doesn't improve on the bad rap.

Overall, beans are fantastic, entrees got raves for the most part, tamales were a shame, spices are decidedly reserved (probably to please the masses), atmosphere is pretty and cozy. On this night the place was half full, the server had a real chip on her shoulder (she was almost militant in style), and food came out of the kitchen like it had been waiting for us to arrive (hmmm, what's that about?). Perhaps Chef Esther Marin wasn't at the helm on Saturday. One drink and one wine apiece, two apps and four entrees, $50 per. I'm looking forward to trying it again in hopes of a win all around.

Anyone else?

Lori

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