I thought I'd never find better fish tacos than El Pelon, and while that still might be true, I was really impressed by the fish tacos at Ole Mexican Grill in Inman Square, Cambridge. I've been there once or twice before several years ago and remembered it as decent upscale Mexican food, but otherwise unremarkable. Tonight everything was fantastic. Here's a description:
The guacamole prepared table side was not only fun to watch, but very tasty with a welcome kick. The jicama salad was a plesant mixture of jicama, cucumber, citrus fruit and a little bit of pineapple with a light vinaigrette dressing, a strong dusting of cilantro leaves, finely chopped pickled red onions and crushed chili peppers. The jicima and cucumber might have been better julienned, and this is not a dish for the faint of heart --- the cilantro and peppers come through very strong, and even if balanced by the citrus fruit the jicama amplifies this sharpness, but if you like the strong tastes of cilantro and dried chili peppers as I do, this is a quite an appetizer.
The mahi-mahi fish tacos were the most pleasant surprise --- this was from the "Mexican tapas" or "small plates" section of the menu on the reverse side. Two tacos come on a plate for about $11, with a generous portion of fried mahi-mahi strips, cabbage, onions, and two strong sauces --- one was mayonnaise based and the other a spicy green chili salsa. Everything was dusted with black sesame seeds and chili oil --- almost a Chinese touch! The mahi-mahi was obviously freshly fried, and the tacos themselves were soft and moist. They were served with a wedge of lime. At first I thought that the tacos were over-filled with fish, and although they probably were from a logistical point of view, I was grateful for every bite.
I also had a side of fried plantains and they were just perfect with the right texture on the outside and still moist inside. They weren't oily and didn't become soggy, and were cut to the right size to preserve the texture of each bite. They were a bit sweeter than expected, but not overpoweringly so.
Dessert was a treat --- chocolate bread pudding with high-quality bittersweet chocolate, extremely rich vanilla bean ice cream, and fresh berries. Dessert portions aren't large, but it was just the right ending to a wonderful meal.
Even the iced tea was excellent --- brewed and unsweetened. Only the coffee was a slight disappointment --- the cafe con leche was a tad too sweet. Probably my own fault --- cafe con leche is often too sweet for my taste, but I try it anyway because everyone does it a bit differently.
This is all the more impressive because we were in a party of 19(!) and the food was excellent, came out quickly and was served together. I should only speak for myself, but my immediate neighbors enjoyed their meals too. The chicken enchiladas were well received and although well presented on the plate not something to write home about by themselves. The mole duck looked really excellent and my companion only wished that there was more of it --- the portion was well sized, he just enjoyed it very much! And the ribeye steak was nicely presented between a bed of mashed potatoes and a covering of fried onions, with okra and baby squash on the side. One companion complained his was slightly sour --- but he ordered it well done and also cleaned his plate, while another thought his was excellent and ordered it medium. The "xangos" --- a fried cheese cake "burrito" with a side of the same rich vanilla bean ice cream and a few fresh berries also received rave reviews and was said to be a surprisingly light dessert. The only comment I heard from several of my companions was that a number of the dishes were sweeter than expected --- from the surprisingly sweet sweet-corn salsa (get the guacamole instead!), to the sauce on the enchiladas, my plantains, and other coffee drinks. I think that this was less a criticism and more of a surprise, but something to take into account when ordering. The jicama salad, fish tacos, and the bread pudding were certainly not too sweet (or sweet at all), but just really well executed.
In sum, El Pelon may have better fish tacos --- simpler so the fish comes through (and at half the price!) --- but I was really favorably impressed by the fish tacos at the Ole Mexican Grill and it's certainly something different. I'm looking forward to trying them again!