Beech Tree Cantina Hyannis...The Good and the Bad
My DW and I decided to have a light early bite at the recently opened Beech Tree Cantina, which bills itself as Cape Cod's upscale authentic Mexican restaurant. I was hopinfg to finally find a great mole sauce here on the Cape, and was disappointed that nothing on the menu has a mole sauce.
One enters through a side door into a smaller dining room,to the right and up a few stairs is a much larger, and more active, lounge and bar, with very classy copper topped hi-top tables and booths that complement the natural stone bar. The renevation is first class, with natural and pickled woods, stone work, and tile all in pleasing hues of earthy colors. The menu has the usual "street style" tacos, burritos, and enchiladas but they eschew the typical spicy ground beef in favor of skirt steak, chicken, pulled pork, seared ahi tuna, fried cod, or shrimp as options. It's not cheap. Their version of an authentic fajita, called Molcajetes, but they will set you back $20 for one, or $28 for two people. The appetizer menu is quite extensive, and I ordered the house ceviche ($12.50) and sauteed littlenecks in a lime broth with chorizo sausage ($12). DW had a couple of soft tacos and rice.
Our waiter greeted us quickly, and proudly proclaimed that they make their own chips and salsa, and the the guacamole is made tableside for $12. ( a trend these days that I'm none too fond of as it has trnsformed an inexpensive peasant food into a high end app.
This is where things got weird. After or drinks arrived, I asked what the market price was on the ceviche and what was the 'local fish' as stated on the menu. Our waiter didn't know the answer to either question. Ok I thought, they've only been open for three weeks. Time passed and no house made chips and salsa. Before our food arrived I asked if the ceviche (scallops and shrimp btw) came with chips. "No, " was his reply. I said , are you going to bring us chips and salsa? He said, "You need to order them." I thought that strange as I've been in Mexican restaurants from Mexico to Canada and from coast to coast in the US and I've never seen a place charge for chips and salsa. Ok, I say, bring us an order. Our meal arrives and he he proudly proclaims, I put some chips on the ceviche for you. I scratch my head as I look at the big basket of chips on the table that we had just ordered. I ask him to box up the chip and salsa order to take home and he obliges. The ceviche looked like a very small order but actually, was very sufficient for an appetizer serving. The flavors and freshness were top notch. I've always been perplexed why more Cape Cod places don't offer this dish. My wife's tacos were okay, but honestly, no better than what you can get at Burrito Bistro for 1/3 the price. The clams were a genous portion of 8-10 clams in a flavorful broth sauteed with chorizo and finished with cilantro tequila lime butter, and a bit of heat. It's served with two pieces of grilled garlicky toast to sop up the yummy broth. Our waiter returns to ask how we liked our food and I asked about the chorizo which wasn't present in my dish. He says, "Oh, Let me check the menu". He returns and says that they'll bring me a corrected dish in a few minutes. In about 15 minutes he brings me another dish of clams with the chorizo and the dish has transformed from pretty good to quite excellent. Totally sated after having 20 or so clams, I head to the men's room as the place is starting to fill up. As I return to my table I can't help but notice that every single table has chips and salsa! I settle the $37 tab (no charge for the "ordered" chips and salsa), give a 20% tip, grab my to-go bag of chips and salsa, but can't help feeling that the bag in my hand is akin to asking a waiter to box up the bread basket and butter to take home!
All-in-all, putting the service and kitchen errors aside which I'll chaulk up to them being new, I'd say this is a welcome addition to the Hyannis dining scene.
Made it to Cantina on Sat night (4/21). Got to the restaurant with my wife and 2 kids around 5:30 and the bar was full (Bruins game on) and a few tables in the dining room were already seated. By 6:30 every seat was taken.
Like CC Guy's post, there was some very good and very bad. A few notes:
We were offered chips & salsa immediately. It was a $2 charge to our bill.
We ordered a ton of small plates for both our appetizers and our meals. We had chicken flautas, shredded pork over polenta square, beef empanadas as appetizers followed by chicken tostados, and 4 tacos (steak, shrimp, cod, and salmon). Kids had chicken fingers and mac & cheese.
The good: good flaky crust to the beef empanadas. shredded pork over polenta (while not seeming very mexican in flavor - - more of spicy BBQ) was a great dish, chicken tostados had great flavor, and steak taco had great flavor. The portions of the empanadas, pork/polenta, flautas, and tostados were generous. The kids dishes were very nicely done and were significant portions; the mac & cheese wasn’t some boxed rendition or a boring elbow with velveeta melted over the top, rather it was a spiral noodle (pretty sure Barilla) in a multi-white-cheese sauce. Probably the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had off a kids menu. And we loved the atmosphere of both the bar and restaurant: nicely remodeled with a casual, lively vibe.
The bad: chicken tostados was served cold and was missing the caramelized onions that were supposed to be in it. my steak taco was also cold. (My kids dishes were piping hot. Almost seemed that our dinners were ready first and they held them up while our kids were finished.) The portions in the taco's were minimal; each one needed a little more filling to be in proportion to the tortilla. My house margarita wasn’t exciting - - - I don’t like syrupy mixes in mine - - - I prefer fresh lime juice without added sugar - - - but this one seemed to be more syrup/mix than anything.
I didn’t think the prices were bad, especially with some of the portions we received. Each taco, while minimal, was $4 to $5. The only thing we ordered that was more than $8.50 was the chicken tostados for $12. In total our bill was $120 and included a glass of wine ($6), a margarita ($7), and a bottle of wine ($27).
I think there is some promise here and we will be back. Hopefully the kitchen gets in more rhythm moving forward, both in terms of serving temperature and complete ingredients.