First Look AND Taste Test: MI COCINA
Marie F | Brandon Weight | May 23, 2013 | 9:30AM |

All words: Marie Formica
All photos: Brandon Weight

Mi Cocina, a Tex Mex restaurant chain with eighteen restaurants in Texas proper, has an emphasis is on “fresh” and “handmade.” The brand new Chevy Chase location unveiled their legacy greatest hits in a dinner on Monday.  Dining in the gorgeous, high-ceilinged party room, sun shining in through walls of pane glass, wasn’t a bad way to kick off the week. Their Mambo Taxi (subheaded “legendary” on the menu) was the recommended cocktail: a beautiful marbled mix of red in-house sangria and frozen white margarita. It looked like a fun carnival-colored smoothie, it was a very serious and adult drink. I repeat, very serious and adult: light enough to slurp down in an instant.

Fresh-made chips were served as a vehicle for the traditional chile con queso, queso blanco and guacamole on the table. The brisket in the chile con queso was surprising, but I was really floored by another dip I’ve not mentioned. It was an unexpected star, an outsider, a maverick. It was the salsa ranchero. This regular old table salsa was refreshing and out of this world.  Chips were unnecessary; I could have sipped it with a soup spoon.  Smokey with tomato and lime flavors and a not-too-spicy kick at the end of each chipful– yeah. Exactly.

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One Mambo Taxi in (it was great) and one handmade margarita on the way (it was okay), the appetizers arrived: the Cocina Platter with Flautitas, Quesadillas, Beef and Bean Nachos (we’re thorough on your behalf, dear readers) and the Ceviche de Camarones. The Ceviche, mostly comprised of shrimp and generous slices of avocado, was 10/10: would eat again. The Cocina Platter is everything you want it to be if you’re hungry.

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Tamales with spicy arranchera steak was the hit of the evening. I’m not an expert on Tex-Mex or any traditional Mesoamerican food, but I do know good food. Tamales are the one area where I do have a smidgen of experience: two summers in high school, I worked at a place where, each day at dawn, a woman pushed fresh, foil wrapped tamales piled in a stroller while her young daughter walked beside her.  This is my gold standard on tamales. Back to Mi Cocina, their tamale was also pretty good. Presented with the leaf wrapper it was presumably boiled in, the dish was smothered in a rich, creamy sauce and topped with spicy skirt steak (not too spicy, for those who fear it).  The tamale itself was just the right amount of rich corn goodness I’ve come to expect (lack of baby stroller presentation notwithstanding) as a tamale expert.

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The evening wrapped up with a Mexican flan. Dressed with a strawberry, the custard was just sweet enough, light and shining from a golden caramelized syrup up top. At this point, I admit, I could only eat a spoonful. That’s testament enough to the food at Mi Cocina. It’s perfect for a chips-and-dip (and-Mambo-Taxi) date, upscale but only just so.  They’ve got standout dishes and cocktails, and they’re just what you need to sate your lingering Tex-Mex cravings.

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