Few restaurants offer tacos, duck a l'orange and veal piccata in the same breath, but one neighborhood eatery will be serving all that and more in coming weeks.
We happened upon the former Acapulco Restaurant and Bar in the midst of its rebirth as Las Rocas. The transition leaves the dining room and chef untouched but, as of this writing, there are two menus -- one with Mexican food selections, the other offering a "continental" bill of fare at slightly higher prices.
Since the new menu was unavailable during our last visit, we can vouch only for the Mexican dishes we sampled, a number of which Los Rocas will continue to offer. What we found was a plethora of good dishes and only a few misses.
Quality Mexican food -- in large portions at bargain prices -- is clearly the draw at this restaurant. Here's a place that pays homage to the vastness that is Mexican cuisine and gives refried beans respectability. If the setting is a bit noisy (on several visits the overhead television has competed with the jukebox) and a bit too dark, the food more than compensates for such minor annoyances.
Save your before-dinner noshing for a basket of wonderfully homey tortilla chips, smothered under a spread of melted cheese and good, earthy red beans. To wash it down, there are several Mexican beers and a fresh-fruit-filled sangria -- made with more wine than sugar, thank goodness.
Appetizers have been consistently good -- and grand -- at Las Rocas. In particular, a baked banana -- stuffed with spiced beef, chunks of peppers and onion, and with a topping of broiled cheese -- was enough to feed two. Bowls of soup are generous portions, too, though I'd rather not have to share the gazpacho, a refreshing, somewhat thin, rendition, flecked with fresh vegetables and spiked with hot sauce.
"Pizza" at Las Rocas is actually a crackery-tasting tortilla, slathered with beans, shredded beef, bits of green pepper, onion and a cover of cheese. A dollop of sour cream was plopped in the middle, providing a cool taste sensation. The tortilla crust was a bit dry around the edges, but the topping was delectable.
Seafood aficionados might be disappointed with the seviche here -- there's nary a scallop in sight -- but the dish is a refreshingly tangy mix of large chunks of firm, fresh fish and onion slices in a pleasantly tart marinade.
Strapping combination platters of tacos, enchiladas and such are nice presentations, served with sides of rice, beans and a sprightly salad.
Another satisfying entree, and a real bargain, is a seafood combination for $6.95. Loaded with tender bites of squid, scallops, shrimp and fish chunks, it was a rich stewlike concoction, supported by a flavorful broth and firmly cooked vegetables. Chicken dishes have been moist and tender on recent visits. Especially tasty was arroz con pollo -- baked chicken on a bed of seasoned rice.
Not everything proved so agreeable, however. A meat and rice dish (paella a la mexicana) sounded tempting at $5.95, but my enthusiasm waned with every bite of this tired-tasting entree of pork, chicken and seafood. Unlike the luxurious seafood combination, the mussels in this offering were somewhat off-tasting and the scallops devoid of anything but rubberiness. Only the rice was worth finishing.
The dining room is modestly comfortable, but not the kind of setting in which you'd want to linger, yet we were obliged to do just that one evening while waiting for a check. Which brings up service: the staff is an amiable lot, but efficiency varies greatly from person to person. So, too, does knowledge of the menu. But considering price and overall quality, the inability to confirm the house wine or get a check swiftly are easily overlooked.