Into the mild
Although I love truly traditional Mexican food, there are times when I crave the Americanized version I grew up with. With that in mind, I made a recent trip to Si Amigos.
We received corn tortilla chips and salsa—plus refried bean dip—upon being seated. The chips were fair, and the dips were OK, with bean winning on texture and flavor. Neither was spicy, which set the tone for the meal. There were certainly lots of interesting flavors to be experienced, but hot chiles weren’t in the mix. This leads me to believe the food was dialed down on purpose—made safe for gringos, if you will. Hot sauce was offered for those of us who enjoy the fire.
An appetizer flauta plate ($9.95) looked and tasted great, with shredded chicken rolled in a nicely crisp, deep-fried flour tortilla, cut into six pieces, drizzled with red sauce and arranged on a bed of shredded lettuce with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. (We’ll call this classic condiment combo S/G/P from here on.) The guac was basic and the relish of tomato, onion and cilantro tasted fresh, nicely complementing the well-seasoned chicken.
Hankering for seafood, we ordered a campechana ($15.95) and chimichanga del mar ($16.95) with rice and beans. The former is a goblet filled with sauteed shrimp, bay scallop and octopus, mixed with diced tomato, cilantro, onion, avocado, tomato sauce and a blend of citrus juice. The seafood was perfectly tender and garnished with slices of orange, lemon and lime. The combo of tree fruit and tomato presented a toss-up over which was sweeter, the soup or my completely enjoyable house margarita ($7.95).
The chimichanga’s mix of shrimp, crab, scallop, tomato, cilantro, sauteed onion and mushroom was great, but the deep-fried flour tortilla was completely drenched in a cream sauce of seafood puree. Unfortunately, good flavor was lost in a broken sauce—grainy, not smooth—which rendered the chimi a soggy, curdled mess.
Heading back to shore, we ordered a house favorite—carnitas fajitas ($13.95) served with rice, whole black beans and S/G/P. A sizzling platter is exciting, but the real drama was on the plate. Huge chunks of marinated pork shoulder sat atop a pile of sauteed bell pepper and onion that was a bit daunting, but the meat was tender. These carnitas were definitely the biggest “little meats” I’ve been served—and among the tastiest.
We wrapped things up with a large combination plate ($11.95), which normally comes with three items—enchilada, taco and tostada—and the standard sides. I chose instead to swap for a chile relleno ($1 extra), a carnitas chimichanga and a grilled steak chalupa (each $2 extra).
With just a drizzle of red sauce, the chimi formed a crispy cozy for that awesome pork. The cheese-stuffed poblano had good flavor and better than average texture—definitely freshly cooked, sans microwave. The chalupa—traditionally a form of tostada with a corn tortilla deep-fried into a cup shape—featured a flour tortilla much like a modern taco salad, albeit a bit smaller. The steak was every bit as tasty as the carnitas, cut in small pieces and laid on a bed of refried beans, topped with shredded lettuce cheese, and red sauce. When they say large combo plate, they’re not kidding.