TORTILLERIA MEXICANA LOS HERMANOS
When we first entered the well lit space, with a décor of all the colors in the Mexican flag, my son said, “It looks authentic,” but my son has never been to Mexico and has only other American based Mexican restaurant from which to make his comparison. However, when I told my son the restaurant we were going to claimed to be authentic , I was referring to the food.
Whenever I see the word “authentic” on a restaurant’s website or menu, I expect the kitchen to life up to the claim. At first thought, I wasn’t sure if Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermano, a new restaurant in New Grace, could live up to the hype. There’s plenty of cheese-sauced enchiladas, ground beef burritos and a taco salad served in a fried tortilla on the restaurant’s vast menu, authentic in the most minimal sense of the word. But there was also cochinita pibil, a traditional Yucatán pork dish that I ordered one day at lunch. Tucked, too, in the menu is albondigas, a traditional Mexican meatball soup; seafood and mango ceviche; and salmon encebollado, a fish dish made with a traditional onion sauce.
I like the fact that Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermano is giving both types of diners — the taco salad lover and the more adventurous eater — what they want.
I’d return for that plate of cochinita pibil. Traditionally the dish is made with a whole suckling pig, but the restaurant uses pork butt for its version. A pile of smoky, slow-roasted meat came scented with annatto, a red-hued condiment made with seeds of the achiote tree that has a mild peppery taste, and sweet citrus.
I wrapped the pork and the raw red onions atop it in warm flour tortillas aside a smear of creamy black beans and Mexican rice, and topped the whole thing with a just-spicy-enough red sauce studded with peppers.
Pork again hit the spot as part of the carnitas platter, where spiced Mexican pork came served with rice, refried beans, flavorful pico de gallo, sour cream and warm flour tortillas. Both times we got the restaurant’s Mexican rice, its texture was slightly gummy. The refried beans here had a pleasant smokiness, and though the smaller pieces of shredded pork were a touch dry, the larger ones were tender and juicy, with wonderful seasoning.
I opted for corn tortillas with my seafood fajitas, which was one of the largest plates of food we saw during two visits. (None of the plates are skimpy, and I got at least two meals, as did my husband, out of each one). The dish came with three good-size tilapia fillets settled on top of sauteed shrimp and scallops, mushrooms, onions and peppers. On the side, I got pico de gallo, sour cream and beans. The petite corn tortillas, warmed and wrapped in foil, were great with the seafood, and everything was cooked to my liking, save for the scallops. They were a bit overcooked, though I blame the sizzling hot cast iron pan the dish comes served on for that, not the kitchen. Corn tortillas make this order, and others on the menu, gluten-free.
The biggest disappointment might have been the chicken chipotle burrito. The disappointment came from just one ingredient: a thick yellow cheese sauce that covered the giant burrito. It overwhelmed everything. We managed to excavate bites of the burrito sans sauce and found tasty, tender chicken, a bright mango salsa and sauteed peppers and onions. I’d suggest a lighter hand on the sauce — or ordering it on the side — because, without it, the dish would have been a winner.
Almost everything we tried would have gone well with the drinks we sampled at the bar another evening. The drink list is long at Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos and much of it reads like a college kid’s dream. I skipped Sex on the Beach and another drink, Bottom’s Up, for a skinny margarita made with tequila — the restaurant boasts a large selection — agave nectar and freshly squeezed lime juice. There’s also a wide variety of Mexican beers and a long list of flavored and top-shelf margaritas.
It’s my guess that the tableside guacamole cart at Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos is one of its more popular features. As soon as we ordered our guac one afternoon, other nearby tables did the same. The server manning the cart asked if we wanted our dip mild or medium. He then mashed avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice and red pepper flakes into our bowl, which we ordered spicier. The ingredients looked fresh and the pig-shaped stone bowl earned presentation points.
Our bowl could have used a bit more acid, but the fresh ingredients were otherwise hard to argue with. Each table gets a complimentary basket of chips and salsa, and that’s what we used for dipping.
Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos has the kind of wide appeal that will work for many diners. Besides the nearly instant tableside guacamole, the service was slow. Also, the cocktails were inconsistent, with each glass of Margarita being a different strength. Taking everything into account I wouldn’t hesitate given them a rating of two star and I’d gladly return to try some of the restaurant’s more unusual offerings.