Mexico City Gourmet 

Borderline: Can't spot the gourmet in Mexico City

Putting the word gourmet in the same phrase as Mexico doesn't really seem to mesh with our understanding of what Mexican food is here in the U.S. When Taco Bell is the mainstay for fajitas and tacos, we obviously aren't asking for much from the Hispanic influence on our culture.

Despite Mexico City Gourmet having the unfortunate misnomer, attempting to fool you into thinking that you might be getting something more than soggy tacos or quick-heated refried beans with cheese or sour cream, it does deliver what you'd expect.

When a friend recommended the restaurant and said, "It's a blast!" I don't know what I expected. Mariachi music? A conga line down the aisles of booths and tables? Well, despite the fact that there was a P.A. system for what looked like a band that may play there many nights, I really didn't get a blast of anything. Located in the Shoppes of Dunwoody (with most of the other restaurants apparently available in Dunwoody), the restaurant was a fairly run-of-the-mill establishment. Requisite cultural paraphernalia -- sombreros, pictures of bull fighting -- hung from the walls. But I still haven't discovered what the white Christmas lights mean to the Mexican people. Maybe someday.

Settled into a booth in a back corner, we were unfortunately forgotten for close to 10 minutes before receiving our bowl of chips and salsa. The salsa was a spicy blend of tomato chunks, poblano peppers (including the hot seeds), onion slices and a tomato base. The light, crisp chips were served hot and fresh and were our essential sustenance until a waiter finally showed up to take our order. Remember: back corners aren't good seats for the hungry.

We tried to ease our wait with alcohol and ordered glasses of sangria, but it was a major disappointment. The pulpy wine was rough and sour. It was more like drinking spiked Kool-Aid than the sweet, brandy and wine beverage it should be.

In addition to the endless combinations of beans, rice, burritos and tacos, a long list of attractive house specialties appeared, including the always popular fajitas (beef or chicken for $11.25), flautus, rancheros and enchiladas.

The ribeye flautus ($8.25) arrived covered in a layer of pico de gallo with sour cream and was piled high with something called Chihuahua cheese, which tasted like a mild Monterey Jack. A side of guac and refried beans with Spanish rice rounded out the feast of fat and cholesterol. Strips of ribeye steak were sliced and rolled in corn tortillas before being deep fried. Either the steak was tough beforehand or it didn't take well to the deep-frying; it was difficult to tear or cut. Parts of the meat were still a bit rare and bloody while others were overdone -- an unfortunate combination in a tortilla shell.

My friend's chicken enchilada ($7.95) was little better. The strips of shredded, white chicken meat were lightly marinated in lime and other spices and rolled in a flour tortilla. A choice of mole, green or red sauce was offered (we went for red). On top of that came the sour cream and on the side was beans and rice. Another punch of carbs and fat seeking to satisfy. Though there was a lot of meat in every bite, the bites didn't have much flavor. The simple, thin tomato sauce didn't do the job. Another one down and not up to par.

Pleasing my other friend, but a little too greasy for my taste, was the quesadilla especial ($5.75), a flour tortilla packed with a medley of cheeses, (including the house favorite, Chihuahua) onions, tomatoes, poblano peppers and mushrooms. The oil from the pan when it was folded had saturated the tortilla and with every bite of Chihuahua, also came a mouthful of grease. A decent side of guacamole was there to tempt for even more fat consumption.

Refusing to give up after the entrees, we opted for both flan ($2.65) and sopapillas ($2.50) for dessert. The flan was touted as a homemade specialty and arrived chilled and sweet, topped with caramel. It was probably the best thing of the evening, especially next to the sopapillas, which appeared to be a fried tortilla topped with cinnamon and whipped cream. The cream was so thick it resembled whipped butter and weighed heavy on the dessert that should have been light and tasty.

There are Mexican restaurants on just about every corner, but that doesn't mean we've lost our insight into what can make them better. If you're looking for a hearty dose of cholesterol-choking food, you've found the place. A little greasy, a little sloppy and a lot fattening, Mexico City may have inspired some of the dishes here, but there's still no gourmet in sight.


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