As earlier reported, last Thurs eve. my GF and I had dinner for the first time at Tierras Mexicanas in Astoria. This was a "pure Chowhound lead" as we learned of the place off this board.
Prior to eating there, we stopped off at another eatery, Viva Mariachi, to pick up a guacamole and flan for "taste comparison" with Tierras Mexicanas. My GF summed up her feelings afterwards: "Best Mexican I ever ate... Very Clean"... Our tasting notes follow:
Initial impressions were very favorable. The place has a corner location with attractive burgundy awning signs. The interior consists of a dark-wood 6 chair bar and probably 12-15 tables. It's very similar in size to La Malagueta nearby, and for reference is somewhat more fancily decorated. From descriptions we weren't expecting much in the way of appearance and it definitely exceeded expectations...there's nothing "divey" about it. Not that there's anything wrong with a dive appearance if the food is there.
We of course ordered the guacamole and with waiter consultation also chose the "Calamar Azteca", "Papa Rellena" and "Tacos Camaron" ... all appetizers, in order to sample a wide range of items. Also planned to leave room for their flan for dessert.
First came the obligatory "chips and salsa" TM style. This was the low point of the evening. The chips are fried there, very fresh when served. Nothing remarkable. The salsa is a "red and white" served in a small side dish. We both found both salsas very weak and uninteresting. During the meal we twice asked for "hotter salsas"... receiving first a dark-red "thick pepper mash" type sauce (pleasant, not fiery hot), and more of the green salsa. Bottom line, we'd recommend they upgrade their salsa line with more interesting preparations, especially as this is a "first impression" item for them.
The guacamole turned things around fast. It's as good as we'd ever had. Chunks of avocado, thick, with onion, cilantro, tomato, pepper... work went into this. A very generous portion apparently freshly prepared and served in a stone mortar... we both talked about this for days after. After a few dips we opened the Mariachi guac for comparison and there just wasn't any. In fairness, Mariachi is a lower price point, more "basic" restaurant.
Papa Rellena... A very nice appetizer of assorted seafood in a delicious sauce. Prominent nice scallops. Highly recommended.
Calamar Azteca. If you're a calamari fan, try it. Not saying it's the best you'll ever have but it may be about the most interesting.... Mild fried-style calamari with chorizon and two sauces, one black bean the other probably a mild pepper sauce. First impressions were uncertain but it became decidedly nicer after a time.
Tacos Camaron... two large tortillas with shrimp and other ingredients. Very mild taste. Not unpleasant but wouldn't recommend. Also tacos we both noticed the oil level on the tortillas.
We ordered both the traditional margarita and the cadillac margarita (w/ Gran Marnier), both over ice w/ salt glass. We had one word for the traditional: "Perfection"... Not too bitter, not too sweet, not too anything yet very distinct sharp flavors. very well balanced. We noted that we liked the cadillac also but both preferred the tradtional.
The appetizers are entree size, each enough for 2 or 3 to get a solid taste.
My GF's comments while sipping the Margs: "Beautiful... everything is good"
This was one of the highpoints of a VERY ACTIVE long weekend of NYC dining....The Guacamole and Margaritas are particular standouts.
From earlier posts we were also thinking this place might be "in the middle of nowhere"... but it's just a few blocks from La Malagueta... there's alot in the neighborhood, it's 3 mins or so from the Astoria movie complex, etc.