First impression: Given the Mexican's live entertainment and the loud volume when the dining room is busy, the venue's owners clearly wanted to create a bar that functions as a restaurant. The menu includes traditional and novel takes on Mexican. Some succeed. Some don't. Much of it tastes mass-market.
Ambience: Yes, that's an old Volkswagen bus in the back of the restaurant. It's cut in half and appears to be used as a service side stand. A lively mural runs along one wall. Tequila bottles decorate another wall, and empty upside-down bottles form a chandelier. Otherwise, the adobe-blue-and-orange dining room is set with wooden tables and chairs and booths upholstered to look like vintage car seats.
Background: When the Mexican opened this past December, much was made of then co-owner Dennis Max's Southern California roots. Thus, a Mexican concept. But Max is no longer involved with the restaurant.
Starters: Guacamole is well worth the $9 price tag. It's made to order, and can be as spicy or as mild as you desire. It comes with corn tortilla chips, but when you order the chips and salsa ($3), you get an unlimited supply of both. We had chicken wings ($10), which were sticky and crispy, just as we wanted. The house ceviche ($12) was made with snapper and had a nice citrus bite. We wanted a few more chiles. Quesadillas can be ordered with chicken ($10), shrimp ($12) or short rib ($14). The short rib tasted fine, but it was poorly trimmed, so each bite brought a bit of gristle. Chile relleno ($8) was nicely stuffed with chorizo, cheese and corn, but the chile itself wasn't cooked.
Entree excellence: Chicken fajitas ($17) were exceptionally well seasoned, and served on a hot platter with avocado corn salsa, Mexican crema, shredded cheese and pico de gallo with rice, pinto beans and a choice of flour or corn tortillas. Enchiladas de pollo ($13) will not please traditionalists, because the sauce is cheesy instead of chile-based. It's tasty, but not what we expected. I also expected more flavor from the salmon mole verde ($23), but it was essentially roasted salmon with too little mole to matter.
Sweet! Classic churros ($6) served with chocolate sauce were a nice ending. But bread pudding ($8) was tragic. Had it been frozen and then thawed?
Service: Immature. We were seated near the bar, where there was endless jostling and loud squeals. I'd want my staff to show a little more decorum. Our server seemed like an exception among his colleagues, because he stayed focused on service.
Liquid assets: Be sure to have a look at the tequila menu and the ingenious cocktails. Two-for-one wine, beer and well drinks are available from 4 to 7 p.m. during the daily happy hour. On Friday's happy hour, look for two-for-one house margaritas.
jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.
133 SE Mizner Blvd., Royal Palm Place, Boca Raton
Hours: Dinner daily, lunch Tuesday-Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Very noisy when full
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free valet at dinner, meters, garages