one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, more!
Admittedly, the first time we landed at Zapoteca (505 Fore Street, Portland, Maine) was after a few drinks at Gingko Blue. Between a few rounds of beers, and a tequila flight, I was enchanted and loved every moment of it. Last night we decided to revisit, and probably have a slightly more calibrated perception of Zapoteca.
The first time at Zapoteca, we stumbled in around 10 pm. We met a couple at the door that had an appreciation for the restaurant and shared their passed experience: try the ceviche. So we did, and admittedly the sampler - made of scallop, shrimp, and lobster - tasted great. What made them a bit unusual was that they could have been cocktails. The tomato broth could have easily been a Bloody Mary, the grapefruit a Sea Breeze. However, the flavors were right and certainly enjoyable.
The guacamole, on the other hand, was far from unusual and certainly excellent. It was prepared chunky with patience and finesse, a trait lacking in so many places that use food processors and other contraptions to expedite delivery. It helped balance the ceviches and made a great appetizer for what was to come next.
There are two portions of the menu, with two different price points. The top part contains enchiladas whereas the bottom portion is more American-Mexican fusion. In other words, there is something for everyone. We stuck to the enchilada dishes and they were delightful.
Zapoteca's tequila selection is respectable. Big city Tequileiras do not compare, but Portland is not a metropolis. The good news is the flights are served with - easily - the best Sangrita in Maine.
With all the fun and alcohol, we figured that one more night out would be appropriate. We landed there on Saturday, and the evening was a sobering reality check.
We sat at a table with a view of the kitchen, which made me a witness to errors I hope restaurants make rarely. While watching the action I was timing some of the dishes. The picture is of a ceviche that sat for 14 minutes; meanwhile, the thermostat next to us read 81 degrees.
The mixed drinks are far from proper. In fact, they remind me more of something I would be served at a Chili's Bar and Grill. I had the Jalapenito - which sounds amazing - but is a major flop for two reasons: over-sweetened and insufficiently muddled. The mint leaves were not even broken, much less broken down, so I effectively drank a rum and agave nectar mixture with mint garnish.
Thinking about it further, dishes like a Maine Shrimp Ceviche should not be on a permanent menu, as they are only in season during winter. Ceviche is still raw, and I rather not eat shrimp that have been frozen for 8 months. So, as quickly as I became enchanted by the tequila selection, vibrant flavors, and lively atmosphere, I cannot shake the feeling that Zapoteca is more like a chain than a independent restaurant in Portland.