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XYZ, Mount Desert Island (Acadia National Park)

Based on recommendations here, my partner and I visited XYZ in Southwest Harbor in MDI. It is well regarded here, in particular for its flavor and authenticity. I am generally skeptical of Mexican food places in the northeast (I am a native Californian and have spent a good chunk of time in Mexico), but stories abound (Boston Globe, etc) on how the owners of XYZ travel to Mexico to pick their ingredients, are familiar with the food, etc.

Well color me disappointed. My mole was anything but interesting - bland, lack of spice, lack of depth. It was perhaps the worst mole of my life, and easily the most expensive. The guacamole that accompanied it was too smooth and creamy, and all I got was about a tablespoon (at $25 you should get more than that, this isn't caviar). The habanero salsa was the most emasculated habanero anything of my life. It had none of the potent, tropical flavor habanero salsa should have. If you're going to call something "habanero xxxx", it should at least have some habanero flavor to it. I'm guessing their salsa is neutered to protect the unwary eaters who do not know of this particular pepper.

My partners chicken dish was not particularly flavorful either. Both of us left very unsatisfied. It seems to be a place that caters to palettes different than ours - that's the only way I can explain the glowing reviews here and those written in the press.

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  1. oh no, this place was on my short list for a visit next week. I like spice, so now I am worried.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lyn

      Don't let famedlupo's comments dissuade you. He admits it's not to his palette. That doesn't mean it's not to yours. If you're expecting tacos and burritos, don't go. If you expect searing heat, don't go. But last night I had a nicely rounded and spiced short rib and pleased me immensely (in addition to being immense); it was braised to absolute succulence and aggressively, though not overpoweringly, seasoned.

    2. I am hopefully re-energizing this discussion of XYZ. Not because inquiring minds want to know why fame da lupo dropped famedalupo as his CH persona, but because I am about to travel to see Passadumkeg and am curious about this "love it or hate it" place with high prices. At least in Maine it seems to draw a lot of attention and customers. Some customers are less than impressed.

      It was praised in Downeast Magazine several times: http://www.downeast.com/Articles-2007...

      Another article is "XYZ, Southwest Harbor", "A well-traveled couple brings authentic Mexican fare to Mount Desert Island." by Kim Ridley, in Down East Magazine. They have a "50 best of Maine" article listing XYZ (that Passadumkeg mentioned), but I cant find it online to see who the chefs are that liked it.

      Another, the Maine Tourism site says: "XYZ Restaurant established in 1994 relocated 2004 to the end of Bennett Lane off Seawall Road in Manset, Southwest Harbor. XYZ serves food of the Mexican interior in a ranchito style building nestled in a wooded setting. Reservations a must."
      Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors says, " Although the XYZ menu changes weekly, you will always find at least one mole such as Mole Poblano, chicken in a complex sauce of 4 types of chiles, fruit, nuts, and a hint of Mexican chocolate. Another staple is 7 Chile Chili, an all-beef chile prepared with 7 chiles. Not all dishes come to the table picante. For example, Camarones Ajo, tiger shrimp in garlic, or Cochinita, Yucatan-style pork marinated in achiote paste and citrus, are mild and are always on the menu. A huge favorite is the Queso Fundido, XYZ chorizo crumbled in melted cheese. Salsas are served on the side with tortillas. Bob Hoyt prepares the first courses and Janet Strong does desserts; her flan is always on the menu, as is the now-famous XYZ pie."

      Boston.com article just talks about the owners and restaurant but doesn't critique the food or service: http://www.boston.com/travel/articles...

      A web search shows that a fair number were less than impressed with the hostess or Manager's attitude and/or the food: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...

      While these, at a different location on Trip Advisor, are all very positive: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...

      What does anyone know about XYZ from recent visits? Authentic Mexican?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Scargod

        I wonder if any Chowhouds have also eaten at Fonda San Miguel in Austin and can compare it w/ XYZ as to the quality of upscale "authentic" Mexican food. I feel Cowghound is often less than six degrees of seperation.
        As I stated on another thread, XYZ fired my first wife at the old location, so they can't be that bad.

        1. re: Scargod

          Scar, the Kim Ridley does not mention which chef recommended XYZ. My bro and New Mexican wife are here. I'm making Maine-New Mexican fusion. Red chile stacked enchiladas w/ fresh blueberry pie for dessert. Fresh lime Ritas and some guac too for old times.

        2. I just got back from Maine and ate at two places that confirm my opinion: Don't get ethnic food in Maine. Friends insisted that a Mexican place and a Thai place were excellent, and I went along against my better judgment because I was a guest. They both were terrible. I am not naming names here because the restaurants themselves are irrelevant to my point: Any ethnic food will disappoint in Maine.

          Why not go to Maine and have Maine food? I thoroughly enjoyed haddock chowder, roasted sweet corn, lobster rolls, ice cream, and baked beans, fried smelts and molasses donuts for breakfast, to name a few delacacies.

          7 Replies
          1. re: shoes

            Gee, that's quite a statement "don't get ethnic food in Maine, it will be terrible."
            You ate at TWO places and are prepared to say the entire state is useless for ethnic food?
            How about Suzuki's Sushi in Rockland? There might even be others. Imagine!

            1. re: sophie fox

              Jeezum crow bub, gimme an Eye-talian.

              1. re: sophie fox

                I am from New Hampshire and have spent a lot of time in Maine over the years, so I'm not pulling this out of nowhere. And I didn't say ALL ethnic food in Maine is terrible - I'm sure there's some place, somewhere that's good. But if you're up there on vacation, why play "ethnic food roulette?" Why not eat Maine food? It's fabulous, and most of the rest of the country pays handsomely to get it.

                  1. re: shoes

                    I agree that, unless there's a specific reason to eat ethnic food here, there is plenty of excellent MAINE food to try.

                    Still, "Any ethnic food will disappoint in Maine" sounds a whole lot like "all ethnic food in Maine is bad."

                1. re: shoes

                  "Why not go to Maine and have Maine food?" Ya know, Shoes, that there are folks that actually live in Maine year round and are not tourist. Are we not allowed good ethnic fare? Do you just eat Connecticut food? I crave good Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc. but these are indeed difficult to find in a large, rural state. It's a long way to Portland.
                  The thought of just eating Maine food brings to mind cardiac arrest.

                2. I think to a certain degree shoes is right; good “authentic” ethnic food is hard to come by in Maine. I could cite Somalian cuisine in Lewiston, Vietnamese in Portland, Japanese in Rockland (noted above), French and Italian in Portland and so on, but these are all tiny oases in a vast wasteland of culinary mediocrity with regards to exotic, “non-Maine” cuisine.

                  Normally I would go right for the jugular and state that the primary reason for this is that Maine tastes have gone southward since the advent of lobster being eaten as a mainstream staple (late 19th century) and that an overall “lack of culture” due to the gustatory distraction of this abhorrent crustacean along with ingesting those vile (and toxic) fiddlehead ferns is to blame. But no, the reason eating ethnic food is such a risky business in Maine (and most of New Hampshire) is due to an overall lack of recent immigrants and--much more important, ethnic communities. Most proprietors of ethnic restaurants have chosen to “dumb down” or “Americanize” their product because they don’t trust that local tastes will accept real authentic food. And, for the most part, they’re absolutely correct in this assumption. “I want some deep fried fish sticks with my fish head soup,” a plate of crab rangoons with my sashimi platter and who the hell makes the best blueberry pie in this state anyway?

                  Speaking of XYZ, we ate at the former location four years ago and thought the food was ok, but the service was not. (Mainly East Europeans and young, local wannabees thinking they were hip serving “real" Mexican in a touristy backwater.) An interesting anomaly in an otherwise dreary landscape.

                  Hey, I've got an idea . . . let's go to Thurston's instead!!

                  1. Agree with the post that kicked this thread off. I do give praise to the decor which has a high energy/kitschy in a fun way vibe and the staff whom we found to be friendly. The restaurant is now located in a residential neighborhood - it's like someone converted their outdoor rec room into a fun restaurant. Restaurant was only open Fridays/Saturdays but maybe this had to do with our being there last September, so not at peak season.