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Reservations Recommended

Restaurant Review ~ Tortilla Coast / 15th & P Sts., NW

 

Obviously a hot ticket for happy hours, Tortilla Coast in Logan Circle fairly bubbles with conversation and clinking glassware. So patrons in search of some sturdy eats might put this on their to-visit list. Why? Because management at Tortilla Coast has recently changed chefs and is upgrading the menu with some authentic flavors. Even the new chef’s presentation of nachos (a dish not listed on the menu yet, so ask for it) comes to the table not in the typical presentation of corn chips coated in melted cheese and daubed with scoops of beans and/or beef or some other meat. At Tortilla Coast, your nachos come with tortilla chips laid flat on a platter and garnished with crema and other south-of-the-border treats.

Other firsts consist of ultra-fresh guacamole, a treat for avocado fans. These plump, ripe fruits (yes, avocados are fruit) come from Mexico and are replete with the rich texture missing from avocados picked too unripe and not allowed to come to full flavor. It’s a great meal opener, especially when scooped up with the still-warm and very colorful corn chips. The chips also make great scoops for the vibrant salsa that the waitstaff starts you off — before your margarita, of course.

If you are a cheese freak, kick off your meal with a ramekin of queso, which is actually a creamy melted cheese with your choice of roasted vegetables, poblano chiles, or chopped chorizo. This last is a champ; be sure to save enough for your main course as an add-on to your made-at-the-table tacos.

On to entrées: The new menu is not extensive, but it does contain several traditional items, including the chef’s “mama’s enchiladas,” consisting of a plate of three rolled corn tortillas stuffed with pulled chicken, Chihuahua cheese and salsa. This would suggest that the chef’s very own mom taught him to make this dish. After all, his family apparently did live in Texas, so learning the local cuisine would be a natural.

Any dish listed with mole (pronounced mo-lay) as one of the key ingredients merits a sampling. (This famous Mexican culinary gift to gastronomy comes in many forms and flavors, but apparently the original mole was devised from ground chiles and bitter chocolate.)

And if you love pork and any kind of mole flavor, you might want to take an order. The most beguiling part of this dish is not the pork, as it turns out, but the scoop of a sweet purée—mashed potatoes? Refried beans? Squash? No, puréed corn, though the menu says corn tamal. Be sure to ask for a side of hot flour tortillas, a must for rolling up bits of pork and dunking into some salsa or some of the melted cheese appetizer.

You may not have time to drop in for lunch during the week, and the word on the street is that their weekend brunches are true winners. The brunch menu is so tempting that it makes a regular trip to Logan Circle worthwhile: huevos rancheros, meat-and-egg tacos, chilaquiles, Mexican French toast, assorted tacos and even a Mexican-flavored Caesar salad.

Dessert choices are limited to churros, coconut flan, chocolate mousse, and a very busy tres leches cake with fruits that mask the rich milky flavor —- that cake was the one flaw with the meal; you may want, instead, to reserve the last few gulps of your margarita to cap off the meal. And, if you stop by for dinner, realize that the happy hour tends to be rather boisterous, as in you can’t hear your friend’s conversation easily.

Tortilla Coast / Hours, Mon.-Thu. 11:30am-11pm; Fri. to 12 midnight; Sat. 11am-12 midnight; Sun. 10am-10pm. Weekend brunch: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entrée prices: $10.95-$21.95. 1560 P St., NW; 202-629-3280.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.