Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Milagro Cantina – Kirkland, Washington

Posted on: Monday 30 May 2011

After a long drive on the ‘other side’ (on the right and on the Eastside!) this Memorial Day long weekend, we stopped in Kirkland for lunch. We meandered along the waterfront and got a table at Milagro Cantina. It is a spacious restaurant – there is booth and table seating, a large bar area and a patio for al fresco dining. It is dark inside – shades of brown is the dominant theme, accentuated by a fountain of petrified wood with a flame centre and a pretty collection of stain glass lanterns hanging in the middle of the dining room.

The restaurant is mostly empty for Sunday lunch and the service is brisk. Small and flimsy in appearance, the menu is surprisingly varied, traversing from Tex-Mex to coastal Mexican. We decided to share the guacamole sampler and some tacos. The first is guacamole de la casa – roasted poblano peppers, garlic, tomatoes and cotija cheese; the second is guacamole de mango – with mango and pine nuts; and the third is guacamole de granada – with pomegranate seeds and almonds.

On wooden paddles, the tres guacamoles is served with red and green salsa, pickled vegetables and tostadas. The earthenware are filled with bright reds and greens. While the tres guacamoles were colourful, they were disappointingly bland. All three guacamole had the same avocado base, disguised as different by their toppings and desperately in need of seasoning. The red salsa and pickled vegetables fared better. The red salsa is syrupy, fragrant with smoked paprika. Mr S loved the heat of the red salsa and happily blended it with the guacamole, of which I’ve abandoned.

We were expecting sturdy triangular-shaped corn chips to scoop up the dips but to our surprise, a wire basket of brittle tostadas are placed on our table. The huge discs of toasted tortilla are dusted with spices. Despite the heavy coating, it was devoid of flavour. I ate some of the plain shards and it had a faint sweet taste.

At four dollars each, the tacos are good value and we ordered the barbacoa, camarones, pescado and chorizo. Our waitress asked if we would like the tacos in a combo and we decided to try one. Buttery rice and black beans bulk up the meal but if we knew it would cost fourteen dollars, we would have ordered an extra taco instead!

We picked a seafood and a meat taco each. A classic fish taco, the pescado had chunks of grilled mahi mahi marinated in coriander and lime on a bed of cabbage slaw and topped with pico de gallo and mayonnaise. Similarly, the camarones is filled with fried Baja style shrimp. Crisp vegetables, creamy sauce, soft and fluffy tortilla, fresh seafood – these were gobbled up quickly!

I love the complex flavours of chorizo – slow cooked in sugo, stirred through pasta or barbecued and sliced to snack on with toothpicks. Unfortunately the chorizo taco was ordinary, I could not identify the meat in the oily, salty pulp. My favourite taco was the barbacoa – the beef was tender and juicy, and pairs well with the pungency of the onions and coriander.

The opulent décor could not conceal some challenges on their menu but it has the potential to become a destination restaurant on Lake Washington!

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