Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tortilleria Nixtamal - Un Poquito Mas Por Favor

Tortilleria Nixtamal - 104-05 47th Avenue, Corona NY 11368
7 Train to 103rd Street

It's often that I hear complaints about a lack of authentic Mexican food in Astoria. I happen to agree, Astoria isn't the best place for good Mexican food - but Corona is. Dan and I ventured to this Hispanic neighborhood last weekend and sat down at the most charming, unassuming place, recommended by Meg. Nixtamal is not only friendly and homemade, it'll warm your soul.

Located on a quiet residential block, you almost feel like you're walking into someone's house--or backyard. It's quite nice and very personal, especially the small yard that's positioned to the side of the restaurant. The overall vibe is cheery and bright with red and yellow picnic tables, large umbrellas and funky decor such as dried flowers and festive lights.

The inside is fun too, again with bold colors (yellows and reds) on tables and chairs, and even a large tortilla-making machine, imported from Mexico. That's where the nixtamal
dough gets made into the delicious tortillas that grace this little tortilleria's menu. I think this custom tortilla-making process is the most special quality that makes Nixtamal so authentic.

Nixtamal's simple menu let's you make up your mind quickly and easily. There's a couple of tamale selections, tacos, enchiladas and posoles. Dan and I chose a bit of everything and even though we over-ordered, we didn't care because everything was fresh and bursting with flavor.

Guacamole with 2 Salsas - We started with this classic Mexican appetizer and I loved its simplicity and strong kick. The guacamole itself was on the chunky side and had a sweet aftertaste - not sure if they put pineapple chunks in it but I tasted a hint of fruit. The two red salsas on the side were good too but note to the wise, enter with caution--they're pretty spicy and you'll need to chase them with beer or sangria. I loved the generous portion of freshly made tortilla chips served with these dips - they were thick, crispy and airy.

Tamales - Our second appetizers of the evening were hot tamales--Dan ordered the chicken poblano and I got the spicy jalapeno. It was fun to unravel the corn husks to reveal a piping hot inside filled with corn meal, cheese, jalapenos and in Dan's case, shredded chicken. Although I don't mind when food has spice to it, my tamale was a bit too intense and I preferred Dan's chicken, which was gentler on the seasoning. Note to self, the jalapeno tamale is not for the faint of heart.

Fish Tacos - I heard that these are legendary at Nixtamal, and even before we knew that, Dan decided to get them. Usually, I'm not too jazzed about fish tacos because they could taste a bit funky if the fish isn't the best. Not these - they were superb! The fish, a white variety (maybe tilapia) was fried to perfection with a thin, crispy outside crust. It was nestled nicely into the tortilla along with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, cheese and hints of lime. Although the portion was a good size, it didn't feel heavy, and it was substantial enough to fill you up.

Enchiladas Moles Poblanos - Mole sauce is one of my favorite Mexican fixins, so ordering these enchiladas was a no brainer for me. The plate was impressive with generous heaps of mole sauce and more heaps of queso fresco on top. I loved that the sauce was so hearty and I detected slight hints of chocolate--always a plus in my book. The inside, stuffed with chicken was a wonderful pairing with the sauce--the meat was light, fresh and nicely shredded. It didn't come with a side of rice (same as the fish tacos) but we didn't need (or crave) it.

Drinks - Nixtamal boasts a modest yet nice variety of Mexican beers as well as a couple of interesting soft drinks such as Jarritos soda and a non-alcoholic sangria called Sangria Senorial. We both ordered the latter and liked it a lot--it was like a sour cherry soda taken to the next level.

Service and Cost:
Despite the amazingness of the food and atmosphere, the service needed improvement. It was unfortunate that a clear language barrier existed between our waitress and ourselves. I had to translate a couple of things in my broken Spanish and communication was challenging to say the least. It was also confusing that in the middle of our meal, we got a different server, and towards the end, we were helped by someone else entirely. We asked three different people for our check and had to wait nearly 15 minutes, when in a rush. It was frustrating but we didn't let it ruin our experience.

Costs are super cheap and definitely one of the reasons to come here--you won't find prices like this anywhere else for this kind of quality.

Guacamole with 2 dips and fresh chips: $6
Tamales: $2.50

Tacos and Enchiladas: $6-$7
Beer: $3.50
Soft Drinks: $2.00

3 Spicy Mmmms

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