It was a gray and blustery day (just short of the classic dark and stormy night) and the street in front of Lisa’s was under serious construction. Looks like it had been, and would be, for quite a while. But inside the restaurant, already decorated for the season, there was no evidence of the gloomy weather or the mess of paving in progress. Retirees, preschoolers, construction workers for that matter, all kept the place buzzing.
Pozole seemed an obvious choice: Obvious because of the weather but also because Lisa’s Mexican menu is big on modernized dishes such as chicken breast with creamy poblano sauce, shrimp in chipotle, and parrilladas of beef, chicken, shrimp, and sausage. Monterey Jack cheese figures prominently on many plates, including the enchiladas de chile poblano. Enchiladas de espinacas come with “a light cream sauce white rice and grilled vegetables.” All well and good, but I was in the mood for something more down-to-earth. The new parrillada de tripas, “grilled to perfection,” tempted briefly, but no, pozole was it.
That and the altogether unpretentious lengua guisada arrived quickly and at the same time, saving me from an over-zealous investigation of the quite good chips and salsas — one toasted, one not, both pleasantly picante. The soup also had an appealing spiciness tempered by abundant oregano. The usual sliced cabbage, onion, and radish were served alongside to be added in al gusto, making for fine flavors indeed. I have just two observations: I’d prefer the pork less chunky, and the radish shredded or more finely chopped. This may seem unusually picky, even for me, but it’s all a question of what you get in each bite.
The bites of tongue were perfectly sized, I now hasten to mention. The unlike-anything- else texture was good, too. (Don’t let this slightly scary comment stop you from trying the dish; focus on the end result, not the anatomical source.) Only the “light tomato gravy” failed to excite; it was good but in an unpassionate, peck-on-the-cheek way. I admit that I failed to sample the house-made corn tortillas while they were still warm — too busy parsing the parts of pozole. The rice, enlivened with onion and green bell pepper, was classic Tex-Mex, and the refrieds had good, honest flavor. Chips, salsa, rice, beans … assuming the tortillas are better hot, Lisa’s foundation is fine. The fancy stuff I’ll try another time.
On exiting, I checked out Lisa’s new Bar Mosaico, due to open December 11. It looked good (and yes, there is mosaic tile), perhaps worth a return on a truly dark and stormy night.
— Ron Bechtol