New cent. American restaurant on 9th street
Xiloa, or something like that. It's Nicaraguan food. They have freshly made juices every day -- I had a tamarind juice which was pretty good. I also had plantain chips, which were freshly made and crispy but not overcooked. They came with slices of some sort of cheese, and a freshly made salsa. For my main course, I had a sort of fish and capers stew in a cup made of fried plaintains, with rice. Very casual, inexpensive, but pretty decent, worth a look if anyone's interested in that sort of thing.
Also went to Nana's last night for the tasting menu. The coconut souffle with key lime sauce was incredible. The rest were decent, but nothing overwhelming. (Though pan seared foie gras is always welcome.)
I keep trying to figure out Xiloa, and I keep failing. They've been open for several months now, and yet every time I go in (I've been in maybe 4-5 times since they opened), the place is in utter chaos. I just had lunch there (was lured back by the promise, in a newspaper ad, of special Nicaraguan holiday foods), and once again it was difficult to even get my order taken. All around me people were getting forgotten, or getting the wrong food, and there were only 5 tables occupied, including mine.
The owner (who *is* the "eccentric lady" referenced above, by the way) was there as usual, spazzing out in the kitchen & trying to explain to her cooks how to prepare the various dishes, both the special holiday ones & the ones that have been on the menu for the past 4 months. I overheard her say that she wasn't even supposed to be there today, but had just stopped in to say hi & get some food.
This got me wondering whether things would have been more or less chaotic if she hadn't been there; she clearly makes the entire staff incredibly nervous.
Setting all the service issues aside, I keep trying to figure out the explanation for the flavor disparity between the aguas frescas and the actual food. I had the pitalla, which is apparently made from this thing: http://www.mymegaweb.com/best/pages/p... ; it was definitely that color, at least. It was intensely fruit-flavored (presumably pitalla-flavored, though I really have no idea), falling somewhere in the apple-grape-cantaloupe spectrum, I guess.
This is pretty much always the case with the aguas frescas: super-fresh, with a ton of flavor.
Yet pretty much everything else I've ordered there has been really bland. The carne adobado, which is pork stewed with red chile, is a deep reddish-orange color, but tastes very little like either pork or red chile. The green chile stew is kind of like tortilla soup without the tortillas--and without any real green chile flavor to speak of.
The nacatamales have all the same ingredients as the ones I got at an amazing convenience store in the Mission in SF, but with about 20% of the flavor. They're still one of the best things on the menu, but only by comparison with most of the rest of the items.
The frybread that forms the basis of the indian taco is of course delightful (you can't go wrong with frybread, I think), but I'm mystified as to why it's topped with blah shredded lettuce, rather than the actually quite good cabbage salad (a peppery slaw, basically) that's also on the menu.
The first time I went in, the owner was passing out samples of two different salsas, which made a huge difference in the flavor quotient. I haven't seen nor heard of them at all on subsequent visits, however.
The handful of special Nicaraguan holiday dishes today turned out to be mostly sweet/fruity variations on the regular entrees, and I wasn't really in the mood for fruity chicken, so the only one I tried (and dang, I've forgotten the name) was a "sweet rice made with central american plums" for $4.35. Out came a tiny (~5") plate with a little pile of rice, topped with raisins & capers, and with what appeared to be three stone-fruit pits. Some of the rice was a slightly darker color than normal. Flavor-wise, though, it was essentially indistinguishable from plain rice, with the exception of those bites with raisins &/or capers, which tasted like raisins & capers.
I even tried sucking one of the plum pits, but it didn't have much in the way of flavor either.
I had a conversation with the owner a month or so ago in which she told me she was having trouble with her daytime kitchen staff; she claimed they were modifying her recipes without her permission, and she was having to constantly check up on them & make them do it her way. I'm starting to wonder whether the poor bastards were desperately trying to infuse some flavor into the food, only to be foiled in the attempt.
I will admit, I find the place sort of perversely fascinating, because the owner is so clearly passionate about what she's doing (plus the frescas really *are* tasty). I'm just sort of flummoxed as to how all that passion translates into such blah food.
(I should note here that I'm not a heat freak; I order my korean & thai food medium, generally. I deploy moderate amounts of hot sauce on my tacos, but I can still taste how good the meat is if I eat 'em plain. So I don't think this is a case of someone with semi-burnt-out tastebuds just looking for a big capsaicin kick.)
i went in there for lunch today and was impressed for the most part. i don't have any background on nicaraguan food, so i can't say if it was good for nicaraguan food or not, but i can say that i had an enjoyable meal that left me feeling healthy for the rest of my day at work. i think if vegetarians are looking for a 9th st option, this would definitely be a good pick. i got a vegetarian dish from the nicaraguan portion of the menu. the sauce was kind of a red cream sauce and it was rich, containing zucchini, carrots, and some other squash. it came with a plantain that was terribly prepared and beans and rice. the beans and rice looked boring and bland, but they were so flavorful. i didn't try the aguas frescos because she still hadn't made the fresh ones for the day and i didn't want my initial experience to be tainted. i've eaten plantains and really enjoy them when prepared well, but this was the equivalent of a baked potato without topping approach to a plantain. dry, tasteless, mediocre texture... but everything else was to my satisfaction, and i will definitely return.
Went back w/my husband, during the height of the dinner hour a few days ago. They seemed unprepared for the rush. We were one of four couples who came in and sat down within about 5-10 minutes. Only the owner and two others were cooking, taking orders, and serving (the eccentric lady wasn't there). The two assistants were working w/ close supervision, and so things were pretty slow. Had the watermelon juice this time, which was very good. We also had the indian taco again, nacatamales, and the boiled fresh mozzerella appetizer (good, but weird). According to my husband, central american foods tends to be not heavily spiced, and I can see that in all of the dishes I've had there. Since I kind of like non-heavily spiced food ( I am from the Midwest after all), it's right up my alley.
Here's hoping they get the staffing worked out, I'd like to see this place stick around.
FoieGrasFranc, I don't think it was me you talked to, but maybe I'll see you there sometime!
We went in last night and had a mixed experience. The juices are incredible, and the lady is kind of a lunatic, but a charming lunatic. We got an appetizer that was two small tortillas with boiled fresh mozz. and slaw on top. I liked it okay, Andy didn't at all...but it was a tiny amount of food and pretty bland for $5.75. I got a veggie special for dinner that was supposed to be seasonal vegetables in a cream sauce, and more vegetables in a plaintain sauce. One veggie was potato (just what I need...more starch) and another was some kind of squash that was pretty good. Both needed some serious salt. The beans and rice were great, but there was another side of rice on the plate for some reason and a plaintain that tasted like potato. Andy got the Indian taco with veggie filling, and it was much better than my meal. The tortilla (which is kind of like an elephant ear without the powdered sugar) was delicious, but we missed the sweet potato and creamy sauce that came on statolith's taco. I think this place can get it together, but I'd say go in for juices now and let them get their kitchen trained a bit more before eating there.
I stopped in with my friend for a late lunch on Friday (was that you we spoke with, statolith?), and we also did the juice tasting. The lady that makes the juices is, well, let's say she's rather passionate her juice making--I think she'll talk to you about antioxidants and pH levels all day if you like. But the juices are, to her credit, very good. Agreed that the beet juice ("remolacha") was very good, as was the cantalope, but my friend and I also went for the cacao, which was excellent.
For food, we split a plate of pork that had been stewed with red chilies. Honestly, we couldn't really taste the chilies, and I guess we had been expecting a bit of spiciness, though we detected none at all. It was also somewhat undersalted, but everything on the plate was otherwise pretty good: the pork, beans, rice plantain, and slaw (which had a nice bite from the red onions). I'd like to go back and try a few more things.
I stopped in to Xiloa yesterday for a late lunch/early dinner. The woman behind the counter gave me little free sample cups of all the fresh juices I wanted to try--I tested watermelon, mango, beet, cacao. They were all wonderful, and beet was surprisingly good. There were several others, but I was in a bit of a rush. I picked cacao, it was delicious: milky and sweet with little cacao bits floating in it. She said she roasts the cacao fresh every morning, and showed me the raw beans.
I also had the Indian taco w/ vegetarian filling (there were at least two meat filling choices as well). It was fantastic. A crispy fried-dough-like base topped with a mixture of potato, sweet potato, and beans in a mild-yet-tasty, creamy sauce, then topped again by shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.
The atmosphere is very Ninth Street - similar to Int'l delights or others but you do get real plates and glasses if you eat in.