I found Tierras Mexicans here on Chowhound sometime last year, not too long after it opened and just now have noted quite a few other strings posted as recently as 1.5.04...I have not found any negative posts and most are quite positive, all for good reason.
I am by no means an expert on authentic or haute Mexican cuisine, but I love this place. It seems to follow the fantastic premise that fresh ingredients plus carefully executed simplicity will equal great food. My most recent meal, earlier tonight, was as follows (descriptions are exactly as printed on the take out menu):
As always I started with a Negra Modelo beer ($5)...a nice dark Mexican brew. The chill and snow demanded a bowl of soup and I decided on the Sopa de Tierras Mexicanas (sopa de pollo o carne can vegetales/chicken or beef served in a tomato vegetable soup) for $3.99. It could have been my entire meal as it is sized, along with most other appetizers, quite generously. Curiously, I found not a trace of tomatoes, but it was great nonetheless. A light broth with the right amount of salt and cilantro was FULL of chicken, green beans, carrots and potatoes. The veges were so perfect they could not have finished cooking until the bowl was placed on the table. No shortage of veges or chicken here, I could have stopped and had the best $3.99 dinner in memory. And as with other dishes I have tried in the past the use of fresh lime juice, which can be easily over emphasized, was perfect.
I ordered Enchiladas (Three soft corn tortillas filled with cheese, chicken or beef with a choice of tomatillo, tomato or mole sauce. $9.95) as my entree. The staff (consisting of one waitress and one kitchen worker as far as I can tell) was more than happy to entertain my indecision and present me with one of each enchilada with the requested tomatillo sauce...tangy and delicious. The beef (steak) was flavorful and could be dealt with using a dinner knife, but a steak knife would have been better. The cheese filled tortilla had a great texture and wasn't too heavy. I wanted to finish my chicken enchilada but along with the rice (with a few carrots and potatoes) and great (traditional so I understand) black beans (both served on the side in generous proportions) I was unable. The plate, along with many entrees I have tried, was garnished with chive oil and swirls of crème fraiche, sour cream or some such product. I once had three cheese enchiladas with the mole sauce and found myself humming happily along...
Other dishes I have had in the past:
The guacamole, ($6.99 for LARGE appetizer portion and available for $2 or $4 as a side) similarly praised elsewhere on Chowhound, is always fantastic and clearly made after it is ordered, as I believe everything is. Nothing comes out immediately and with good reason. It hasn't been made yet. The chips, fresh and crispy are usually great, but a couple times I have felt they either need to change the oil more frequently or have a fryer tank solely for the chips. (And lest I forget...a basket of chips with a dish of tomatillo sauce and another, slightly spicy sauce, are always brought out immediately.)
The Salmon Azteca (Pan roasted salmon served with chile chipotle noodles tossed with shrimp, mussels and vegetables. $13.95) was great and not too spicy, which is a plus for me (they will spice to your request, I believe). The salmon was fresh and nicely seared and propped on the thin properly cooked noodles in a thin flavorful (coconut milk?) broth and PLENTY of shrimp and mussels. A steal at $13.95 and would be at least $25 nearly anywhere in the city.
The Trio de Sopes appetizer (Thick corn tortillas served with shredded chicken, fish, and poblano peppers topped with tomatillo sauce, crema fresca and cotija cheese. $4.95) can serve as an entree...again a large portion and was fantastic...the mole is amazing if a little spicy for my delicate-to-heat palate.
I have eaten lunch and dinner there at least 7 times since last summer and find it a great deal and great meal across the board. Most of my friends who have gone with me or on my recommendation agree, although some not as powerfully and a few people in one group had some gastro symptoms afterwards that they weren't too pleased with, but they were in the middle of a hectic travel day and literally wolfed their food down.
I would like to see some dark meat in the chicken dishes as I find all white meat a bit boring. And for those who cannot deal with a temperature diverging from 68F, be warned. I find it chilly nearly anytime of year...over conditioned during the summer and under heated tonight. But these are my only complaints...
A nice and tasteful dining room with bright colored walls, a nice margarita list (I suppose...tequila and I had a bad argument years ago and never made up) round out the experience.
I met the owner on my second visit (a lunch the day after my first visit...I liked it so much I had to go right back) and he seems to take great pride in his place, as he should.
The one real problem, noted by nearly every other entry on Chowhound...it is almost always nearly empty. I was there from 6:00-7:40 tonight (I take my time) and saw only one other person who took food to go. Please try it and if you like it tell others! I cannot imagine how this place will survive if it does not get more business and it clearly deserves to stick around.
31st & 36th Ave Astoria
(no address on menu)
directly below the 36th Ave stop on the N/W elevated train (North East corner?)
Sunday - Thursday 11am - 1am
Friday & Saturday 11am - 2am