Let the Band Play On.Authentic Mexican food has found its way to Moultonborough. El Mariachi, which opened in July, is located at 1094 Whittier Highway (Route 25) in the log cabin structure that had most recently been a seafood restaurant. Chef Alberto Lira of El Centenario restaurant in Wolfeboro has created an interesting menu that reflects his quest to bring "the real thing" to diners. Definitely a cut above the average Mexican eatery, El Mariachi has just 11 tables, seating 32. There is also a full bar with additional seating. Sombreros and Mexican artifacts on the walls and a low, pulsing beat of Mexican music create a South of the Border ambiance. Tablecloths and attractively folded napkins are a nice addition to the rustic ambiance.Both lunch and dinner are served and reservations are taken. (A good plan if you are going on a weekend.) The lunch menu features 10 offerings, each priced at $10. Chips and a piquant salsa are offered as you are seated. I had the Botana Centenario from the lunch menu, which consisted of a sampling of appetizers (a flavorful flauta, a cheese stuffed quesadilla, nachos topped with jalapenos and a crispy chimichanga filled with shredded chicken), served with a generous scoop of chunky house-made guacamole and sour cream, on a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce for $10. A Dos Equis Amber light beer, served in a chilled glass, followed by a creamy flan (which normally comes with a dollop of whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle but Chef Lira suggested a splash of Grand Marnier as a pleasing alternative) completed the ample lunch.On another visit for dinner, my companion had the same platter for dinner, $15. I chose the Camarones, or giant shrimp, sautéed with your choice of sauce (I opted for the diabla, in a chipotle mayo sauce), served with rice and salad ($22). The shrimp were large and fresh, the sauce hit just the right note of heat. Another of us had the Mole Poblano, a tender chicken breast smothered in dry roasted pepper and the traditional mole (nut and chocolate sauce), served with rice and soft corn tortillas ($20). It was proclaimed authentic and flavorful.The dinner menu is divided into several sections: Sopas, Ensaladas, Aperitivos, Platillos and Especialidades (Meat, Poultry, Fish) with explanations in English. The staff is friendly and willing to explain the menu. A fun bonus is having that flavorful, chunky guacamole freshly made at tableside ($10).Chef Lira travels to Boston each Monday to pick out his own produce and meat - no food service trucks here! His spices are all imported from Mexico. He prides himself on the authenticity of his food, and pointed out that not many Mexican restaurants offer the "Chile en Nogada," a Poblano pepper stuffed with seasoned beef and topped with a white walnut wine cream sauce ($20). Have to save that for the next visit.
This article appears in the September 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine