One of the “perks” of working on St. Armand’s Circle a couple time a month is being within a stone’s throw of a whole host of excellent restaurants. It’s simply a pleasure to wrap up a day’s work, meet up with Jill, and pick a spot to enjoy a fabulous meal. We did just that recently, at La Malinche, one of the more recent entrants into the phenomenal restaurant scene here.
While we’d stopped in before on an afternoon some weeks ago (for what turned out to be a huge plate of nachos and a cold drink), we’d promised ourselves a return trip after reading the dinner menu. The presumption of some would be that this was another “Tex-Mex” spot, but it’s a truly a big departure from that. Call it “Mex-Mex” because La Malinche specializes in authentic flavors from various regions of Mexico. This is no Taco Bell . . . so it might be helpful to leave your expectations of what Mexican food tastes like behind and be open to tasting something a little different, which is what we decided to do. In keeping with the aura of St. Armands Circle, La Malinche is a bit more upscale than most Mexican restaurants, and there were spices here I hadn’t heard of before. I look forward to bringing my son-in-law, Alejandro, here to get his opinion!
On our return visit we were led to our table inside, as the restaurant was rapidly filling up. Luis, our server was there in moments and informed us that Happy Hour was going on until 7 p.m. Margaritas anyone? But of course! The house made tortilla chips and the accompanying salsa and re-fried bean dip was next up. And down. Yum! (In hindsight, agreeing to a re-fill on those was a tactical dining blunder, albeit a delicious one).
The menu features regional dishes from around the country, with plenty of intriguing choices, as well as enough familiar fare to keep everyone happy. As is my M.O., I’m looking for the unusual. Aha! The Molcajetes sounds like just the ticket. Per the menu, it’s “mostly popular in Guadalajara and is a heated lava stone dish filled with your choice of grilled meat, onions and peppers drowned in a unique salsa made with roasted tomatoes and spices”. Make mine the Signature Malinche; Angus steak, chicken, chorizo sausage, fish, and shrimps topped with cheese.
When dinner arrives, mine is served in a lava stone dish in the shape of a pig, a delicious irony it turns out. It is seriously bubbling hot, and continues to stay that way for the entire time I ate from the seemingly bottomless bowl.
Jill was leaning towards something more expected, like enchiladas or a seafood tostada, but instead she opts for a selection from the “traditional dishes” (at my urging; I’m a pain that way), and orders the Conchinita Pibil. Described as a traditional pulled pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, slowly cooked in a banana leaf and strongly marinated with citrus juices and achiote, served with black beans and its own traditional salsa. We both had a hard time identifying the complexities of the flavors of Jill’s dish, but we’re told that that the achiote is the key. There’s a whole lot more going on in there, though. Trust us.
The aforementioned second helping of chips, along with the half a meal that I ate, precludes any shot we have at ordering dessert, which was a disappointment. I heard neighboring diners oohing and aahing over their Arroz con Leche. (Dang!) So with a full belly and carry-out boxes in hand, we head home sated and happy.
Even happier that we can savor La Malinche’s delights a second time tomorrow!