March 21, 2013

New Taco Escobarr Menu Review

There are times when I reflect upon how I voluntarily choose to live in Maine, and it's usually around this time of year, when I say to myself, you don't HAVE to do this. It's spring in a whole bunch of southern states right now. It's flat out warm in parts of California right now. 

And then, of course, I remember that I love Maine and my friends here, so unless I can convince my entire family and friends to move to California (eh? whaddya say?), I have to carry the warm fantastic parts of Maine only in my mind to get me through the "spring" here. 

Maine seems to push everybody's buttons this time of year, and the 10-14" of predicted snow on Tuesday put a lot of people over the edge. But we got a snow day and decided to make the most of it by sledding and having a late lunch out. 

Problem is, "late lunch" is a dooming phrase in Portland. Many of your favorite bars don't open until 4 during the week, and if a spot does offer lunch, they're closed again by 3pm. This lead to an aborted attempt at Binga's and some wandering of Congress Street. 

So we thought we'd try Taco Escobarr's revamped menu. They closed a week and redesigned their menu with the help of Damian Sansonetti, a former NYC chef who plans to open his own restaurant in town. The new menu focuses on slow-cooked comfort food rather than standard Tex Mex. 

We started with the El Jefe Nachos Montana (to which my Spanish-speaking friend J. dryly observes, you mean a mountain of nachos? and blows my mind with the translation of 'montana'), which are described as chips, with chorizo, crema, radish, queso fresco, and lettuce ($12). 

OK, the picture looks good right? All of this food looks good, and the nachos were better than the fish taco I had. But I think these nachos would have been better if I was drunk. Or if they were hotter. The chips and chorizo were good, both crispy with lots of salt. And there were certainly plenty of toppings. 

But please, leave off the pale/greenish tomatoes. I then unearthed a huge pile of congealed, orange cheese in the middle which might sound good to some, but I was bewildered. I said, has this been here the whole time?? to A. who was eating off the other side. She just shrugged. 

We forged ahead and ordered two fish tacos and a carne asada to share (3 for $10). I immediately missed the side of salsa verde that used to come with the tacos. The shells have improved dramatically (that was my biggest gripe previously). 

But we struggled to find any distinct flavor in the tacos. I tasted a lot of corn - corn tortillas, cornmeal coating on my fish. Salt, lime, and their house bottled hot sauce never saved the dish. It's too bad because I thought the fish tacos were one thing that they previously had done well. 

Others reported similar tales of flavorless meat, needing salt. The bistek or shredded beef filling was reported to be good. 

But between the loud, neon environment, and the unsettling feeling that I'm looking at someone being sexually assaulted on the campy movie posters in the women's room, and the lackluster remade menu, this is one place I'll continue to pass over.