Sunday, April 27, 2014

Maizal - Mole that Stole My Heart

After a successful day at that LIC Flea a few weekends ago, Dan and I met friends, Nuno and Jennifer at Maizal, a fairly new Mexican restaurant that took the place of Thymari.  We enjoyed the food and drinks just fine, although I can't say I'm dying to go back right away and will give them time to work out their kinks.


Remembering the Greek restaurant that used to occupy this space, it was refreshing to see what Maizal has done to transform it.  New, colorful artwork adorns the walls, which are painted in bright cheery colors such as lime green and pink.  They've maintained the exposed brick walls that still look great, especially in the main dining room where they help create a sexy loungy vibe.

Different from this main space is the bright, cheery bar where friendly bartenders serve up a variety of handcrafted margaritas, sangria, wine and other libations.  If you're looking for something more casual, you'll love dining in this setting.

Deciding to go pretty classic with our food choices, there were no big surprises in store, except for maybe our appetizer.  We each ordered something different, and got a chance to sample a little bit from each other's plates.

Guacamole - It's pretty standard to split a guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, but I like to do it each time, as it's a good barometer for the rest of the meal. Maizal's version was pretty good, yet not too remarkable.  I appreciated the chunkiness of the avocado and the fresh ingredients, but I thought it could've been seasoned better.  The chips that came as a side also left something to be desired.

Stuffed Sweet Plantain - This on the other hand was a very interesting dish, essentially consisting of a giant sweet plantain, stuffed with melted Jack cheese, jumbo shrimp and some avocado.  I loved how the sweetness of the plantain hugged all the savory components, creating a pretty juxtaposition not only visually but stylistically.

Enchiladas Moles
- Maizal's mole came highly recommended by friends, Emily and Daniel, who I trust deeply when it comes to Mexican food.  My mole dish was indeed a winner, boasting a rich poblano flavor that was laced with chocolate undertones.  It complemented the enchilada chicken stuffing well without overpowering it, and overall delivered a nice balance of flavors.

Other Dishes - The other dishes I tried at Maizal such as the tacos Al Pastor looked beautiful but lacked flavor, again because they were under seasoned.  A similar sentiment was felt about the fish tacos, which was a bummer.

Jalapeno Margarita - Taking advantage of their rich margarita offering, I went for the jalapeno and loved it.  The fresh lime juice was a nice touch and was appreciated, especially given the current lime shortage.  Whereas the spice of the jalapeno was noticed, it was added thoughtfully instead of just tossed in for shock value.

Service and Cost:

Maizal's staff did a great job of ensuring we had a good customer experience.  The pacing of our meal was nice, as it wasn't too fast, giving us the chance to chat freely and to feel relaxed.  However, when it came time to get the check, they were cognizant of that too and picked up on our cues.

Costs are moderate and comparable to other higher end Mexican joints in the nabe such as Pachanga Patterson and Mojave:

Appetizers - $7.95 -$17.95
Tacos - $16.95 - $18.95
Entrees - $14.95 - $22.95
Dessert - $6.95 - $11.95

2 Mmmms

Maizal - 32-07 34th Avenue, Astoria NY 11106
N/Q Train to Broadway

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