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Feast: Acitron – Good Mexican and Spiteful Salsa

July 15, 2011

I’m going to say it: you just can’t get good Mexican food in Boston. I can say this because I lived in San Francisco for two years, a qualification that also allows me to make sweeping generalizations about the quality of fresh produce (you just can’t get good avocados in Boston), the temperament of New Englanders (you just can’t get good humor in Boston), and the weather (you just can’t get good weather in Boston).

So, when Dave suggested that we branch out into Arlington Center for Mexican food this weekend, I thought longingly of burritos in the Mission and Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Nob Hill, knowing there was no way the East Coast could compare.  This review did little to quell my fears – frequently a restaurant that brags about not being traditional is just looking for an excuse. As in, “That quesadilla with American cheese was SUPPOSED to be disgusting, it’s not traditional!

Fortunately, Acitron not only restored my faith in Boston-style Mexican, it left me wondering what other gems Arlington Center might be hiding (aside from Not Your Average Joes).

We started with the Aguacate Frito (fried avocado) with cilantro-jalapeno sour cream. The batter was just thick enough, with just the right amount of grease, and the sour cream was so good I made our server leave the bowl on the table so I could dip my food in it throughout the night.  The avocado itself was tender and creamy, warm but not uncomfortably hot.

The Sopas Surtidos, three corn tortillas topped with potato and chorizo, shredded chicken, and cactus salad with cotija cheese, were next. Cactus, in case you haven’t had it, tastes like a mild pepper with a slightly thicker texture, and mixed with the cheese it was my favorite combination. Next in line was the potato and chorizo, spicy with a nice blend of textures. The shredded chicken was good as well, just not as interesting as the other two.

For my entrée I tried the Chiles En Nogada, poblano peppers stuffed with ground beef and topped with a cream sauce. If you choose this, be prepared – the beef and sauce have a sweet note, and there are nuts and raisins in the mixture. It was technically well prepared and tasted good, but if you aren’t in the mood for sweet, you may be disappointed. For my side dishes I chose Mexican “home fries” with chipotle aioli and sautéed mushrooms. The potatoes were well seasoned and perfectly cooked, and the mushrooms were good, if nothing special. Dave ordered the winner of the evening – Chiles Ancho de Camaron, a shrimp stuffed ancho chile. The shrimp could only be described as luscious – juicy, tender, and lightly bathed in a mild yet flavorful chipotle and goat cheese sauce.

The atmosphere was casual and had the potential to be lively, but at 7pm on a Saturday it wasn’t even half full. Acitron just opened last spring, but I hope the good word spreads and it is more crowded at my next visit – perhaps if diners felt more lucky to secure a table, they’d be a little less cranky. As it was, the couple at the next table had a fit when our server mistakenly gave us their extra salsa. I’d suggest a few margaritas and a Xanax to the Arlington woman who interrupted our conversation with a sour “did you even ORDER salsa?”

Nope, we didn’t, but we ate it anyway, out of spite. It turns out you can get good spite salsa in Boston, and at Acitron, you can get good Mexican, too.

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