This is one in an occasional series about eating establishments in neighborhoods near Tufts’ three campuses. Have a suggestion for a place for our roving diners to explore? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Dish on Foursquare.
Hard on the heels of Gargoyles’s departure from Davis Square in Somerville, upscale Mexican joint The Painted Burro has sprouted up in its place. An alternative to more traditional taquerias like Anna’s across the street, this restaurant—from the gang that brought you Pizzeria Posto—follows an approach that might be referred to as new Mexican cuisine, basically meaning dandified contemporary interpretations staring up at you from a plate of humble tortillas.
Exhibit A: The lip-smacking tamarind-glazed chicharrón, a strikingly successful glorification of everyone’s paramour at the moment, pork belly. I can’t imagine any plausible excuse for foregoing its pleasure. I might convincingly declare that it would make a fine selection for inclusion in one’s last earthly meal, but it feels sacrilegious to joke about bacon.
Large-cut, house-made tortilla chips are a tad oilier than they should be, and the minutely blended salsa fresca lacks bite (no options for a spicier version). The guacamole, however, is light and heavenly, an exceptional rendition even without any of the optional mix-ins. A pity it’s served in a fish bowl, making one feel like a frustrated honey bear pawing at a jar.
In sampling the taco selection, the chorizo one stood out for its savoriness as well as its perfectly sunnyside-up egg. Other varieties sporting skirt steak and redfish were by common consensus less appealing. I for one would be happier seeing some zippy salsas introduced into these preparations in place of the mayonnaise squirted on top. I should also mention a monstrous chupacabra (“goat sucker”) taco piled with everything, appositely christened after the legendary bipedal livestock-preying creature.
There exist scarce grounds for criticizing the fundido, a shallow bowl of bubbling melted cheeses supplemented with roasted shishito peppers. And I’m willing to stand corrected, but were those supermarket tortillas being served with it?
Recommended by a cook who happened to be sitting next to us, the rabbit cazuela came with a nicely chile-spiked tamale and a medley of finely cubed root vegetables. Yet I must report that the watery broth could use more assertiveness to offset its thinness, and the bits of cartilage were an annoyance impossible to detect until you unexpectedly encountered them.
Failing to be enticed by the tres leches cake, citrus flan or chocolate mousse, we were curious enough about the house-made ice cream flavors to request a sampling of all three. (A risky move when the menu doesn’t offer them in such an array, but a fair example of what passes for a routine request from anyone in my family.)
The sweet corn barely registered its flavor and was set to one side. The coconut-avocado one tasted appropriately exotic, if light on the avocado. But the spicy chipotle chocolate surely deserves some kind of award. Simultaneously fiery and icy, it prompted a lively spoon war at the bottom of the dish. A happy ending for grownups, try it before it disappears from the menu.
The Painted Burro, 219 Elm St., Somerville, Mass., is open seven days a week, 5–11 p.m. 617.776.0005. For more information, go to www.thepaintedburro.com.
Fred Kalil can be reached at email@example.com.
Read earlier entries at the Dish series page.