New England isn’t known for its Mexican food, and I don’t think it ever will be.
SFSF Restaurant Review
735 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge (Central Square)
I’ve eaten at Picante a few times. It disappoints almost every time. The food seems to be well-made, with quality ingredients. But it’s also pretty bland and heavy on the rice. Mexican rice is a pretty boring food.
Perhaps Picante’s problem is that they’re one of the only decent Mexican food places in their price range in greater Boston, which gives them a bit of an inflated ego.
Authentic is often attached to food establishments. I don’t pretend to know what authentic Mexican food is. I went on a church thing during my first adolescence that took me to Tijuana, Mexico. There, we took part in a service project for our Mexican-Mormon counter-parts. The Mexican Mormons were gracious enough to cook a meal for us, which I remember being heavy in veggies and potatoes, with no hint of spice. So maybe Picante can claim authenticity. Who knows? What matters with food is whether or not it tastes good.
I used to live in Central Square and I ate at Picante a few times because the food options are limited. (Food options are always limited though, right?) Like I said earlier, the food at Picante has always been disappointingly bland. I ate fish tacos there once and had to suffer through mango salsa and grilled fish. It was laid out in do-it-yourself fashion. Mango salsa is stupid.
Picante’s pretentious interpretation of fish tacos is pretty much what you get anywhere outside of my native southern California. In San Diego, there’s a pretty big chain called Rubio’s that does fish tacos way better, if not authentic. They fry up whatever white fish they get ahold of and put it in a corn tortilla with cabbage accompanied by a flavorful, spicy mayonnaise sauce. I always add more kick from their salsa bar, which is pretty good. I’m not even going to go on about some of the other Mexican joints in San Diego. They’re good, trust me.
If bland, the meat at Picante has a natural texture to it, as if the chicken they purchase comes from birds that are let out of their made-to-fit cages and into the daylight every now and then. The meat feels as if it isn’t loaded with steroids, at least not to Roger Clemens levels.
I said that my taco salad was $8.75 and later $8.25. It was one of the two. It definitely wasn’t $7.00, as the website advertises. I’m sure they just haven’t updated the site in a while.
Their salsa bar is also pretty good. There are a few varieties to choose from. Absent from the salsa bar though, are carrots marinated in jalapeno juice. Lots of Mexican food places back home have delicious, soft, jalepeno-soaked carrots available for free at their salsa bars.
So I give my meal 4 out of 5 stars. That’s based solely on last night’s experience; I can’t promise everything at Picante is going to be as good.