El Coco Mio

El Coco Mio

The first thing you need to know about El Coco Mio is that it is not a Mexican restaurant. At best guess, I would call it Central American in the main, with perhaps some of far southern Mexico in there as well. This is important so that you don’t expect tacos and burritos. Not gonna happen.

What you can expect is a nice take on the cuisine. Mostly. There are some things I was not happy with, but by and large, the experience was excellent, and worth repeating.

veggie chips and salsasWe started with the complimentary basket of chips and two salsas – one slightly spicy version that was more like the liquid salsa one sees at Mexican places. That salsa was interesting, as it hit on the back of the tongue, and almost as an afterthought. Not a fierce heat, but enough to know you had been touched. The other salsa was chopped tomato, cilantro, onion, and some other vegetables, but no liquid base – more of a pico than anything, and was very good. Refreshing, actually. The chips are an interesting mix of plantain chips, beet chips, and a sort of ground lentil chip similar to papadum. Very tasty (ok, not the beet chips, just don’t like beets).

arroz de maiz soupAfter this, I ordered a bowl of the Arroz de Maiz – a polenta and chicken soup with caramelized onions. This was incredible. Hot (thermal, not spicy), and very good. The flavors were well balanced, and everything worked. This was also a huge portion for the price, and it would pair well with a tapas selection to be a complete dinner. If you like corn soups, this is one to be sure to try. Honestly, I don’t see you going wrong here.

Our main courses were, for me, the Bistek (beef tenderloin sauteed in a tomato-based sauce with red and green peppers and onions, served with black beans and white rice); and for Tammy two tapas selections, the Taquitos (ground beef & potato, topped with a tomato sauce, house-made slaw, and queso fresco) and Arepa (corn cake filled with black beans & cheese – beef is also available). She was very happy with these selections, especially the Arepa. I had the Bistek (beef tenderloin tips sauteed in tomatoes and vegetables served with rice and black beans). It was plated with fried plantains, slaw, and yuca. Here is where I have some negatives. The beef was shredded, and didn’t seem much like tenderloin. The saute was not tomatoes, as in chunks, it was a rich tomato-based sauce (as you see below). That was the biggest issue – the sauce was so rich it rolled over the other flavors, so all I could taste was the sauce. It wasn’t bad, not at all, but it was the only flavor going. It was, and I can’t believe I am saying this, too rich. That’s a first. But there it is, too rich. The beans and rice were fine, plain and tasty. The yuca wasn’t bad – very potato-like, and had some onion there too. I am not a fan of fried banana, so while the fried plantain wasn’t bad for what it was, it was doomed from the start for me. I will say that their method is superior – there was more there than a mush (which is what I keep seeing from fried banana).

Dessert was a baked rice pudding, which reminded Tammy of her mom’s recipe. Not bad, but two flaws there. First, it was dry, and wanted some more flavor. Not bad, but could have been better. Two, it was sliced off a larger piece. At a chain, that would be expected. But El Coco Mio is positioning themselves somewhat upscale from the usual Mexican restaurant, and that means, in this case, each one needs to be made to order. Or, at the least, baked to order. That would push them over the top to be sure.

All told, I liked it, and will indeed be back. Having never been, I was unsure of what I was seeing, and ordered based on familiarity. I should have struck off in another direction, and will next time I am there.

If you are looking for a new experience, and willing to expand your horizons, I can safely suggest El Coco Mio as a great option. Be sure to check it out.

[URIS id=236]

La Finca Mexican Restaurant

La Finca Mexican Restaurant

La Finca Menu CoverI don’t usually do reviews for restaurants, but I do like the idea of giving some promotion to local restaurants that I think are worth keeping open.

La Finca, at 6050 W 159th St in Oak Forest is just such a place. I have been really pleased with the quality there, and while it isn’t the pinnacle of the Mexican food world, it is very solid, and they know what they are about. I’ve had the bistec mexicana and the bistec Oaxaquena, both very tasty, and well portioned.

For those not familiar, the bistec mexicana is strips (or chunks, cubes, etc.) of skirt steak in a reddish-brown sauce with green peppers and onion. It can also use jalapenos, but I won’t order it that way – too spicy for me. The bistec mexicana at La Finca was tender, flavorful, and in a sauce with the right amount of bite. I usually pass over the green peppers, and go right to the onions, also good. The sauce was thick enough to stick to the meat and onion, but not so thick as to overpower the texture.

Bistec Oaxaquena is the same preparation of strip steak, with the green peppers, but with bacon and Oaxaca cheese. This is really good – the only thing I would say about it (and this is about the dish, not the restaurant) is that adding some onion and/or sauce would punch it up a few notches.

Overall, La Finca is really good at providing fairly priced, quality Mexican food. The portions are good-sized, if a bit smaller than similarly priced options elsewhere. That is not a bad thing, I never feel that I have overpaid – not for a moment – and I get to finish it all off, and not feel like I overdid it. That is a total plus.

The only negative is that the service is a bit shaky – I attribute that to newness, and possible language issues (and one assumption about a single guy in a restaurant next to a nail salon). Seriously, though, despite that shakiness, nothing has ever been messed up, misinterpreted, or any of the other common service issues at restaurants.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop in for a bite. You should be pleasantly surprised.