Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Second Time Has Some Charm: La Verdad, Boston

The first time we sent the cold, raw, oil-laden churros back. The waitress insisted that my passion fruit drink was supposed to taste sour, the beans were so salty that they were inedible and the shrimp were days old. To put it bluntly, that first meal at La Verdad in the Fenway area of Boston was one of the worst meals we have had. To make it worse, as any parent knows, the rarity and price of a good babysitter makes any date night one that you don't want to waste. Finally, reviews had been so positive that our expectations were high, perhaps too high.

However, based on a suggestion from someone on Chowhound, we called up and the managers offered to let us come again. This time, perhaps with a more realistic idea of what to expect, we had a far better meal.

First I will say that this is not going into the "family-friendly" category unless you want to take your kids to what is essentially a bar. Also, don't expect to find a parking spot, especially now that the House of Blues reopened next door.

That being said, my husband insists he would return again and again for the skirt steak. It was very good, incredibly moist and flavorful. In fact, I was so stumped by the flavor combo, that our waitress revealed the secret: it is marinated in a combination of soy sauce...and Coke! It is typically served with guacamole, but my cilantro averse husband was happy to see a substitution of avocado. When I did try the guacamole it was pretty standard and had a creamy texture that almost made us suspect mayonnaise...)And now for my favorite item of the night: the grilled corn. In fact, this stuff is so good that unless we can make a worthy version this summer I may also have to return. It wasn't that the corn itself was so good (after all it is still March). But it is grilled until the outside caramelizes and becomes sweet. It is then rolled in salty, creamy cotija cheese and then dusted with spicy, warm chile powder. Finally, a sprinkle of lime juice adds an acid note. It is fantastic.

We also decided to try the Mexican chopped salad. For all intensive purposes, it was pretty standard: chopped, cold vegetables with some creamy dressing. However, the odd success of the evening: the serving vessel which was a ridiculously good puffed corn chip of sorts.

This time my tacos (pictured at the top of the post) were also very good. La Verdad does offer unique flavor combinations which are wrapped in small corn tortillas. While I liked the fish tacos on the first visit, I much prefer grilled fish rather than batter fried. So, I tried 3 new ones this time, all recommended by our waitress. My least favorite was the chile relleno or stuffed chile in a tortilla. It was too heavy and the "fry" taste dominated more than anything else. However, this time the carnitas (roast pork) was delicious, rich and so good. Finally, my carne ansade consisted of the skirt steak but with sweet onions and the slow burn of arbol hot sauce. Another successful play on the steak taco.

Finally, we took a second chance on the churros, which are essentially Mexican donuts. While I never make fried food at home, it is not an unusual indulgence for us when we eat out. I recently raved about the fritelle at Dantes and so it isn't that fried food is an anthema to us. However, this time we still couldn't eat them! Again, the dominant taste was cold oil. They were cooked through but that didn't make up for the stale aftertaste. The waitress pointed out that Mexican food can be heavy, but to me that still didn't make up for what seemed like, at the end, a bad dessert.

La Verdad may be owned by Ken Oringer (also owner of Clio, Toro, etc.), but it still doesn't seem reflective of the quality of his cuisine. I would also be suspicious of all the "Best" and "Most Authentic" signs. However, if you are in the Fenway for a game, or want to eat a few good items for a decent price, it may still be worth a try.

La Verdad Taqueria Mexicana on Urbanspoon

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