Hopes were high for the opened-in-May South End Mexican joint El Centro, mostly because of the presence of, as MC Slim JB puts it, a chef “from Sonora, not an Anglo pretending to do traditional fare and missing by a mile.”

“Born in Mexico does not mean Can Cook Great Mexican Food,” harrumphed opinionatedchef, who nonetheless gave the place a try. And was won over.

Dinner began with “light fresh fried chips” and a “best we’ve ever had” salsa with tomatoes, cilantro, and roasted poblanos. The carne asada taco was wrapped in the “most toothsome corn tortilla,” which was handmade by the owner “that morning, from his father’s recipe. I have never tasted anything like these ever.”

The kitchen seems to have a deft hand with masa. Even the not-otherwise-bowled-over yumyum found the sopes shells lovely (“crispy and crunchy and corn flavored”), while opinionatedchef rated them “crispy/chewy/very thick.”

opinionatedchef liked the sangría and shrimp with chipotle cream, too; yumyum hated the flavor-light guacamole, but grudgingly appreciated the fried-to-order churros. They disagreed again on the merits of the space, with opinionatedchef decrying the “uncomfortable plank chairs, ugly fake plank tables, potentially attractive original(?) tin ceiling made ugly with 30 coats of paint on it,” and yumyum praising the room’s coziness and that self-same tin ceiling. Well, they’ll have to agree to disagree.

El Centro [South End]
472 Shawmut Avenue, Boston

Discuss: El Centro- Excellent Mexican Addition to the South End
May 2011 Openings and Closings
Which new Mexican-ish place should I visit first?

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