Monday, October 18, 2010
MexiQ Kitchen & Draught Brings on the Flava and Spice
MexiQ Kitchen & Draught - 37-11 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/W Train to 30th Avenue
After a lot of enticing press coverage about MexiQ and given that I'm a huge fan of Mexican food and BBQ, I went to check it out last week with Fran, a friend and colleague of mine. What started off as a cold, rainy night, turned into a pleasant (and filling) evening of good food in a cheery, funky atmosphere. I'll get into the details in a minute, but in a nutshell, I think it's a major step up from its weak predecessor, Balu, that a lot of Astorians just couldn't wait to see go.
A cross between a bar and restaurant, MexiQ offers a fun, playful vibe with warm colors and cheery decor that isn't too gimmicky. Although the atual space hasn't changed from its predecessor, it's a lot friendlier and not as monochromatic. They've kept the TV screen in the far back right of the restaurant, but instead of scenes of tropical fish, which didn't have much to do with anything, it now showcases vintage Western flicks, further solidifying a Southwestern theme.
One other aspect which I have to stress is the awesome (and very eclectic music) we heard throughout our meal. Ranging from The Shins to the more obscure, Mumford and Sons, I really enjoyed their indie music mix--a rarity in 30th Avenue cafes, which are drenched in mass popdom.
Clear from its name, MexiQ dishes up modern Mexican food with BBQ flavor. Think chicken wings with spicy cilantro achiote BBQ sauce, Mexican style fried chicken, adobo rubbed ribs, pulled pork carnitas and more. Fran and I started off traditionally, with guacamole, then took it up a notch with the braised meat tasting, only to end on a sweet note with a tres leches cake.
Guacamole - Although there were four different types of guacamoles on the menu, we chose the most basic of its kind. I was a little disappointed at that, as the other flavors sounded really different, incorporating lime poached shrimp, roasted pork belly and even chicken cracklin'. No matter...the classic would do just fine, I thought. Even though it was passable, I'd leave it at that, as it lacked an injection of flavor and spice that some of the best guacamole has. Overall, I'd suggest more fire and salt.
Cazuela Tasting - Fran and I were excited to try this little smorgasbord of braised meat including carnitas, brisket and shortrib. First off, it looked gorgeous, divided into individual cast iron dishes with little shot glasses of fixins including sour cream, pickled red slaw, guacamole and MexiQ's spicy house sauce on the side. There were also two packets of soft flour tortillas, which we opened immediately and filled with the tender meat. I first tried the meats individually, stuffing each in a separate tortilla. But as time went on, I combined the three. All permutations were delicious and smoky, my favorite being the carnitas, which had a slightly sweet taste from a pineapple marinade. The coca-cola reduced shortribs were a close second, with a nice kick at the end and a slightly sweet touch from the coke syrup. Yum!
Tres Leches Cake - I was personally running out of room but Fran suggested we try dessert. We went with a tres leches cake that was hard to refuse. It was just divine - a moist, dense cake with tons of flavor on its own, and when drenched in MexiQ's concoction of 3 milks (tres leches) including coconut, condensed and whole milk, it was to die for. On top of that, it had silky caramel on top. Plain and simple, this dessert was legit.
Drinks - In addition to all the food, I wanted to mention that MexiQ has an impressive drinks selection, boasting 48 beers on tap. I took advantage of that and tried a special fall brew, the double chocolate stout from Young's. It was a great drink to sip on, on a cold Fall night and went perfectly with the hearty meat and corn based menu items.
Service and Cost:
Our waitress was nice and sort of low-key, which was good. She knew the menu well and checked in on us periodically, without being too overbearing. No complaints at all. I also liked that the servers who gave us our food explained what was on each plate thoroughly and knew their ingredients to the T.
Costs are moderate and include:
Appetizers - $6 - $32
Salads - $9 - $12
Quesadillas - $12 - $18
Entrees - $21 - $32
From the Smoker - $16 - $26
Burgers - $7 - $13
Sides - $4
Desserts - $8 -$9