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Fasten your Seatbelt: Casa Mexico…

Just before Spring Break a group of us went to celebrate the birthday of our favorite Indian-Canadian-Microsoftie, Ritcha Gupta (NG). Ritcha’s craving for Mexican led to our selection of Casa Mexico in Harvard Square. Although I am not a huge fan of Mexican food, I am always open to try new places and I figured anything was better than yet another trip to The Border Caf‚.

I had envisioned a Cabo San Lucas-esque restaurant overflowing with authentic ornaments and festive decorations. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find the unique ambience that this basement-level restaurant provides. Stepping down into the restaurant’s vestibule you are immersed in vintage Mexican d‚cor that gently draws you inward.

Conveniently located right off JFK, Casa Mexico is tucked into the side of a building, allowing you to escape the bustle of Harvard Square. In my opinion this subterranean locale is perfect for an intimate dinner for two, however not quite the place to bring a rowdy group of party-goers.

Dining in a large group has its privileges as I was able to sample a variety of entrees and gain a good sense of the quality and selection of the food. Unfortunately, most everything I tried was awful. First, it took me 20 minutes to decide on an entr‚e because nothing on the menu sounded particularly good. Then, I asked the server a slew of probing questions to help me decide, but her lackluster descriptions of the food only furthered my indecision.

Finally I gave up and ordered the Combination Plate that included three house specialties: Tostada de Picadillo, Enchiladas Verdes and Camarones a la Campechana. It was mediocre, at best. I also tasted the Tamales (traditional beef filled corn patties wrapped in corn husk) and the Pollo Acapulque¤o con Queso (chicken baked in a green tomato sauce served with melted cheese on a flour tortilla). Both lacked pizzazz and vaguely reminded me of the Taco Bell do-it-yourself meals you find in the supermarket.

Hoping for a reprieve, I sampled their recommended vegetarian dish, the Enchiladas Rojas, only to discover a horrendous mixture of hard boiled eggs, onions and red chile sauce. The absolute last straw was their consistently weak Margaritas. I ordered both the Strawberry and the Cuervo Gold Margaritas, which were served in puny glasses and lacked sufficient alcohol. Granted, my definition of sufficient alcohol may differ slightly from yours, but I know that after I pay $5+ for a drink I should be somewhat satisfied.

I can honestly say that this was one of the most unsatisfying dining experiences that I have had recently. The food and the service were mediocre at best, and aside from the entrance I felt no “Mexican vibe”. I hate to admit it, but I would have rather gone to TGIF’s and ordered the sizzling fajita combo!

With my disgust for the food, I searched for something positive out of this experience. I found two things: first was the aforementioned ambience, and second was the chips and salsa. The fresh tortilla chips and salsa were complimentary, which is not always the case with Cambridge area Mexican restaurants, and they tasted better than average. The chips were freshly baked and the hearty salsa was just the right level of spiciness -it had a little kick, but didn’t make your eyes water.

En fin, I understand that I may have inexperienced taste buds for Mexican food, but I am positive that the other 15 people at the restaurant that night would corroborate my story of displeasure. I would only recommend visiting Casa Mexico in the unlikely event that you have a romantic occasion that calls for second-rate Mexican food.

Overall Rating:

Atmosphere: Casual, yet slightly
romantic and secluded
Food: Slightly below average
Service: Decent
Portions / Value: Poor- prices ranged from $11.50 to $16.50 for entrees – too high for the quality of food

March 31, 2003
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