For each new Ambassador Program, I am looking for someone who attends to write up the event. I posed it to this group, and James Boo of theeatenpath.com took it to task. We are lucky to have him cover the event; take a look at his site, you’ll see the calibur of the writing, which pretty much makes my site look like it’s written by a 5th grader. So thanks to Mr. James Boo for lending iwantmorefood his pen, and enjoy his wrap-up of our Tex-Mex Ambassador program. – Jeffrey Tastes
Ambassador Jenny Miller (http://jennymiller.org/) led us to Cobble Hill the other week to show us a thing or two about Tex-Mex cuisine, staple of her hometown of Austin, Texas.
The spot was Lobo, a stone’s throw from restaurant row and recipient of the most coveted descriptor in the restaurant business: “authentic.” Approval from those who had eaten Tex-Mex in its native environment verified this fact, but how did everything taste?
A bit of Tex-Mex 101 before we get into the answer: While its hallmarks do kind of betray the diversity of Texas’ offerings (the balance between Tex and Mex can shift depending on where you are in the state), they do form a distinct culinary tradition. Tex-Mex, which gave birth to the fajita, chili con carne and (I think) breakfast tacos, tends to funnel Mexican influences into comfort food, with liberal use of sauces, melted cheese and large plates.
Lobo represented accordingly. The corn tortilla chips that greeted us were accompanied by a saucy-not-chunky salsa that favored sweet tomato over spice and zing. Steak and shrimp nachos were built from split hard taco shells and topped generously with guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, melted cheese and (praise Dios) pickled jalapenos. Fried Okra, announced by Jenny as our “vegetable of the night,” was heavily breaded and seasoned only with salt, resulting in a mild and crunchy bite.
Our main courses were comprised of tacos and enchiladas. The tacos, very simple affairs of meat-in-tortilla flanked by refried beans and rice, were hearty but didn’t raise a lot of eyebrows. Lobo’s chicken was shredded, very moist, and very slightly smoky in flavor. Its beef, also tender and moist, had been braised and diced, but, like the chicken, didn’t register too strongly in the flavor department. Lobo’s shrimp tacos, rubbed with chipotle, were the crowd pleaser of this course.
Enchiladas received higher marks overall, especially the ones doused in mole. More gritty than silky, the smoky, chipotle-dominated sauce was the probably the most distinct flavor of the meal. Beef and cheese enchiladas were more familiar ground, where soft flavors and textures melded into melty, saucy goodness.
The dish that garnered the most praise was queso, a holy grail of Tex-Mex that my college roommate once defined as Velveeta + Pace. Lobo’s queso, made with a higher level of care, was nevertheless faithful to the basic combination of liquified cheese, pico de gallo and ground beef. While a few of us noted that the ground beef was a bit too watery to be in the dish, almost everyone was a fan of the rich and shameless dip.
While Lobo is a good representation of the cuisine, the group seemed to settle on “good, but not great” in terms of overall quality. Many wished that the flavors had been more pronounced and the dishes less generic, but this criticism was tempered by an understanding that a Tex-Mex meal is not the same experience as a walk down Roosevelt Avenue or a drive through Pico-Union in Los Angeles. The atmosphere at Lobo is easygoing and the space great for groups, making it an easy thumbs-up for anyone who’s never tried Tex-Mex before – just try not to think too hard about Sunset Park while you’re at it 🙂
Thanks to Jenny and Jeff for bring everyone together for this meal, and thanks to Phil for being our Rock Band enabler! -James Boo, theeatenpath.com
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