Monday, June 15, 2015


Mr Minx and I visited Barcocina for the first time last summer. We were in the neighborhood, didn't have dinner plans, and had heard good things. Most importantly, after threatening skies most of the afternoon, the evening had turned breezy and pleasant, making the idea of outdoor dining very appealing. Lucky for us, in warmer months, Barcocina is open to the elements on three sides, with both indoor and outdoor seating. If you want sun, there are sunnier spots, and if you prefer shade, there's plenty of that as well.

On this first trip, which was early on in the restaurant's existence, we tried one each of Barcocina's selection of various tacos, guacamoles, and ceviches, plus a side of Brussels sprouts.

Crispy Brussels sprouts with red mole and Cotija
The sprouts, which were tossed with red mole and topped with a smattering of cotija cheese, were excellent. Who would think that cinnamon would work so well with the tiny cabbages?

Oaxaca style guacamole
The guacamole we tried was a fairly simple and traditional affair of avocado seasoned with shallot, lemon, lime, jalapeno, and cilantro.  It came with a generous basket of not-too-salty tortilla chips. Also successful were the easy-to-eat tuna sashimi tacos, cool raw tuna swaddled in pillowy soft flour tortillas.

Sashimi tuna tacos
A scallop ceviche, on the other hand, was a bust. What we received was one large scallop, sliced horizontally, sauced with citrus, vanilla, and habanero, with a smattering of red quinoa on the bottom of the dish and an overly generous amount of ancho chile popcorn on top. It sounded good, but the slimy slices were awkward to eat, and they were not as fresh as they could have been. (The restaurant seems to have gotten rid of the ceviche altogether, apart from one version on the appetizer list.)

Our second visit came about 9 months later, during the brief Baltimore City curfew period. Two media dinners planned that week had been canceled, but we ventured to Fells Point anyway to support the businesses that were hurt by the early shutdown. We had planned to revisit Barcocina at some point, and this seemed like a good time to do so.

Smoky Margarita and Texas Pink
We started out with two smoky mezcal-based cocktails, a margarita and a Texas pink, topped with pineapple foam. They were both refreshingly un-sweet, but the latter had far more ice than actual cocktail going on. With drink prices over $10 a pop these days, I want a little more booze, please.

Barcocina Dip
Like the first time we dined at Barcocina, the food was hit or near-miss. The Barcocina dip, listed on the menu as "an Oaxaca queso fundido" had a curious fluffy texture studded with odd rubbery and flavorless bits of chorizo, topped with a whole poached egg (not fried, as the menu indicated). While the yolk was runny, the white was very firm and required a knife to cut and distribute through the dip. The accompanying tortilla chips were weeny, as if made from taco-sized tortillas, and not big enough to scoop up a decent amount of dip.

Duck enchiladas
Better were the duck enchiladas topped with red mole and a fried egg and served on a bed of black beans. Listed in the appetizer section, the three generously stuffed enchiladas would make a perfect entree as well.

Buffalo chicken tacos
We tried one of the seven varieties of tacos offered, the Buffalo chicken. Three flour tortillas stuffed to bursting with shredded chicken were topped with shredded green mango & napa cabbage and smoked cheddar, and served with a bowl of salsa de arbol. The flavor wasn't as reminiscent of chicken wings as the name suggested, but they were pretty tasty nonetheless.

Tuna taquitos
Even better were the tuna taquitos, wee small shells of fried malanga, a taro-like starchy tuber, filled with chopped tuna, pickled sweet potato and ginger, and a chili soy sauce. Each two-bite taco had just the right amount of texture and flavor, and were my favorite thing on the table.

We were hungry and tried two sides as well, crispy yucca tots and elotes. Let me just say this: all tots should be made with yucca! (I'm not a fan of the tater variety). These were super crispy on the outside and creamy within, and just fine without the accompanying adobo sauce and citrus crema.

As for the elotes--Barcocina should be embarrassed. For $6, we got one medium-small ear of corn, cut in half. It apparently had ancho cayenne butter, queso fresco, and lime zest, but in such minuscule amounts as to be ridiculous. Thinking on it, I should probably have asked to have it removed from our check. It made me mad.

So apart from two real bombs (elotes and scallop ceviche) and one almost-flop-yet-still-edible (Barcocina dip), the food at Barcocina is pretty good. Anything with raw tuna in it especially. And Brussels sprouts. And the food is prettily presented, to boot. Service is decent as well, if a bit relaxed. And you can't beat the location--at the foot of Broadway, overlooking the water or Thames Street, depending on which side you sit. The views certainly make up for any deficiencies in food or drink.

Barcocina on Urbanspoon

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