many moons ago, we ate at milagro and had mixed results. nothing was egregiously bad, but there wasn't anything that made us want to return, either. for the sake of the blog, though, and because we like to give a place a second (or third) chance, clark recently returned for a solo assessment. we knew that milagro uses a vegetarian-friendly fryer, so if nothing else, clark would be in for mad helpings of chips and salsa.
the owners of milagro recently gave the restaurant a facelift, and though the difference isn't radical, it is significant. the dining room is now divided into sections that allow for more privacy, and there just seems to be a better flow through the place. the vibe certainly feels more modern than other mexican joints in town, and milagro has done much to distinguish itself as the upscale version of its sister restaurant, tortillaria. clark sat in the bar area but only because there was better lighting there for photos.
clark's waiter was solid, attentive enough but never intrusive. food came out a bit slowly, but this had nothing to do with the server. the waiter was quick to get feedback about vegetarian items, and he never seemed put out by clark's inquisition. at the end of the meal, clark had an opportunity to talk to a manager (owner?) to inquire further about the meal. though not terribly personable, the manager was obviously knowledgeable about the menu and knew exactly which items were vegetarian. it was clear that the chef had put much thought into the vegetarian options on the menu and that this philosophy had been clearly defined for the front-of-the-house crew. very reassuring, indeed.
being a sucker for guacamole, clark started off the meal with milagro's version of this blended-avocado goodness. the portion is ample, no doubt, and the avocados were fresh and plump. there was just the right amount of chopped vegetables to give the guacamole some color and flavor contrast, and the texture was sublime with its blend of smooth and chunky avocados. unfortunately, though, the guacamole was undersalted and underseasoned, leaving the relatively mellow veggies and avocados to sing a flat note; the fresh mexican cheese didn't contribute any significant flavor, either. it was close--really close--to being very good, but the guac needs some help if its to become crave-worthy.
next up were the traditional quesadillas, which were unlike anything clark has ever eaten. instead of the typical fold-over tortilla style, these quesadillas are more like indian samosas on steroids. these "corn masa turnovers" are not just unique because of their shape; they're also unique because of their exotic filling: huitlacoche. for those not in the know, huitlacoche (aka "smut," aka "mexican truffle," aka "crow poop") is a corn fungus that most modern farmers consider a blight. for hundreds of years, some folks in mexico have been eating huitlacoche as a delicacy. certainly, this is the first time clark has seen it, and had he known what it was prior to ordering, he might have passed it up. it's difficult to explain the flavor of huitlacoche, but there's something just a bit "off" about it. it's neither delicious nor disgusting; either way, though, it was because of the oily pastry, not the corn fungus, that we won't be ordering this in the future. still, it was very cool to try something entirely different. crow poop. hilarious.
last up was the grilled vegetable burrito, which is one of the entrees we tried the first time around. stuffed to the gills with cilantro rice, black beans, squash, grilled corn, spinach, and zucchini, the burrito delivers the veggies better than any other we've had in the area. the sauces were solid complements, even if they were lacking a bit in chili heat. what makes this burrito noteworthy, though, is that it's vegan--not something one can request vegan but something that is designed to be vegan. as most of you know, it's a rarity to find 100% vegetarian items on a mexican restaurant's menu; to find a vegan burrito is virtually unheard of. according to the manager clark spoke with, this vegan burrito is the direct result of an omnivore chef collaborating with his vegetarian wife. (note to clark: always listen to the wife. she's smarter than you. always will be.) unlike the guac, though, the burrito was a touch on the salty side, but it wasn't obnoxiously savory. clark suspects that the slightly excessive saltiness is due to the kitchen's desire to compensate for the absence of cheese, and we'll gladly deal with a little extra salt when a kitchen is trying so hard to accommodate the vegan/vegetarian community.
milagro's salsa, by the way, is quite delicious and has a beautiful color and consistency. still, like the rest of the food at milagro, there's a noticeable absence of chili heat, and we wish very much that they would deliver bolder flavors. still, the fact that vegetarian needs are not secondary at milagro makes them a place worth considering the next time you're in the mood for modern, inventive mexican cuisine.