Since my sister was visiting from Austin, I was home from Chicago for the summer and it was Father's Day weekend, the four of us were looking for a restaurant that was nice enough for Father's day, neither run-of-the-mill nor too expensive.
Don't be fooled by the restaurant's exterior: the interior is tastefully decorated in a warm and contemporary style. The music was at the right volume for a conversation: we couldn't hear our neighbors talk but could easily hear each other. This may, however, be a function of the fact that there are only 8 well-spaced tables in the restaurant.
We started with Empanadas Rellenas and Ceviche. The empanadas came with small bowls of salsa verde and black beans and were tasty without being greasy, but in retrospect we should have opted for either the chicken or shrimp filling (given these options, we chose neither) as the empanadas felt a little empty. The Ceviche, prepared with a mixture of fish, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and avocado, was excellent. Paired with the crunch of the chips that accompanied it, the Ceviche's bite complemented the creaminess of the avocado and the silkiness of the seafood. These appetizers left us looking forward to the entrees.
The entrees were Tamal de Frijol y Platanos Rellenos, Mole de Mama Cata, Rabo de Res al Acuyo and a seafood stew. The Tamal de Frijol (a vegetarian option) came with a pair of well-fried and -caramelized plantains lightly drizzled with sour cream, in addition to a black bean sauce and a banana leaf-wrapped masa tamal. The tamal was a little bland, and this was probably the most underwhelming dish we tried. The Mole de Mama Cata, in contrast, was probably our favorite. It consisted of extremely tender (literally falling off the bone) duck leg in an incredibly rich and flavorful mole sauce. I've never had mole sauce, but its taste (complex, smoky with a hint of sweetness) ensures that I'll try it the next time I see it. The Raba de Res al Acuyo, which consisted of oxtail in a spicy green ("hoja santa") sauce with yucca, paired meaty fattiness with a vibrant, cilantro-like flavor. Finally, the seafood stew, which contained blue crab, shrimp, mussels, scallops and octopus, had a deep fishy (and this was a good thing) flavor and a surprisingly large amount of delicious seafood. All of the entrees were well-proportioned, leaving each diner with just enough room for dessert - no giant plates of which only half can reasonably be eaten. Dessert was an orange-flavored flan that was sweet, dense and as well-sized as the entrees it followed. Without tip, drinks and tax the meal came to $75 for 4, which we thought was a pretty good value.
Service was unobtrusive yet attentive and all staff were friendly but professional. Reservations are recommended and metered parking in front of the restaurant was free after 4 p.m.
To summarize, this was the most authentic Mexican restaurant we've eaten at (it's certainly not Tex-Mex). Also, since it specializes in Veracruz cuisine that we'd never tried before, it was a new and delightful experience. Strongly recommended!