The Washington Post

Ay, ay, ay, Mi Cocina

Interesting iron chandeliers and artwork can’t rescue Mi Cocina, in Chevy Chase, from its corporate vibe. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Since Mi Cocina opened in May, “I’ve never met so many Texans,” says the general manager of the 140-seat source of Tex-Mex cooking in Chevy Chase, sounding pleased. Max Sagastizado figures half of the customers he has talked to hail from the state where the chain originated.

I understand the appeal of the lush guacamole, made every 45 minutes to accommodate demand, and the tangy “perfect” margaritas made with top-shelf tequila. Thick with shredded chicken breast, a cup of posole pulses with cumin, paprika and heat from jalapeno.

Even so, an early taste of Mi Cocina was sufficient for this diner.

Despite the vibrant paintings of flowers and butterflies by Mexican artist Luis Sottil, the iron chandeliers that suggest tree branches and the allure of a glass-enclosed bar facing the street, the sprawling white dining room still feels more corporate than cozy. Take away the sea of bare tables and leather booths, and the space could pass for a bank, or maybe a cruise ship, given the sea of servers in blue shirts carrying trays of frozen drinks.

The staff is plenty nice, but maybe too attentive. No fewer than four servers and managers stopped by my table within 90 seconds of my meal’s arrival. All I could do when they asked whether everything was okay was nod and point to my working jaw. The restaurant reminds me there’s such a problem as too much service.

Mi Cocina’s menu of tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and more is daring in that it lists calorie counts for every dish and even the drinks. Order the Deluxe 57, a Texas-size combination entree, and you know you’re facing nearly 1,800 calories on the strapping plate of three enchiladas (cheese, chicken and beef) and two tacos (beef and cheese) — a figure that doesn’t include the accompanying Mexican rice and refried beans.

In reality, you might not take in anything close to that number, however; salt overwhelms the elements, particularly the beef taco, the rice and the beans. The best part about a main course of lime-marinated shrimp and slaw swaddled in soft corn tortillas is its side salad of lettuce and avocado; one bite of the funky seafood kept me at bay.

Texas, Mi Cocina is all yours.

5471 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase. 301-652-1195. micocinarestaurants.
. Dinner entrees, $8.95 to $21.95.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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