Friday, August 24, 2012

A Little Different

La Siberia
3018 Fredericksburg Road
(at Olmos Drive)

I went here in furtherance of my plan to review all the restaurants in the Hildebrand Corridor, that stretch of road from Trinity University to Monticello that is unusually thick, for the North Side, with Mexican and Tex-Mex kitchens. The first thing that struck me as unusual about the place is that it, possibly uniquely for this area, is not open for breakfast. (Surprising, because the sign in the front window advertises desayunos; but maybe it's an old sign.) It was thus somewhat unsurprising that they don't have breakfast options on their menu ... so, no chilaquile tacos today!

What they do have is a fairly extensive menu of Tex-Mex food, with some items not often found on menus at other places around town. I don't know the origin of the name, but I suspect it has to do with the white cream sauce used on many of the house specialties. You know: Siberia ... snow ... white ... cream sauce. Well, it's just a guess.

(photo from the restaurant web site)
The house specialty is tostadas. You can get your average Tex-Mex tostada here, but why would you? Try the Siberia: shredded chicken on a guacamole base, topped with crema, as in the picture here. 

For my meal, I chose a dish called chipotle especial. It consisted of the shredded chicken topped with another sauce, a cheese-tinged cream sauce with a hearty dose of chipotle for seasoning, served on a platter with rice, beans, corn tortillas, and totopos, the deep-fried corn tortillas that are used in tostadas. My sidekick Rick went with the beef fajita plate, also served with rice and beans, and flour tortillas.

His meal is easily dealt with. The meat was plentiful, properly cooked with peppers and onions to a slightly crunch-edged perfection. I thought the seasoning on it was a bit subdued ... understated ... weak. Still, in the universe of beef fajita meat in Paradise South, it was just a notch above average, and the quality of the meat itself contributed to that good opinion. 

My meal came with a first course of consommé, a large bowl of rice and vegetables in broth with a pleasant aroma of cilantro. Since cilantro is generally overdone, to the point where I condemn its use in my food, calling it "pleasant" is a great compliment to the cook. 

Everything on my plate was delicious. The refritos were creamy, and with none of that vaguely soapy taste that lard sometimes produces in the mix. The Spanish rice, though monochromatic, was tender and moist, with the slight flavour of chicken broth to it. (It's always best to have Spanish rice early in the day, as it does dry out; and we were there right at opening time, 11AM.) The chicken was plentiful, all white meat, finely shredded, and covered on the plate with that chipotle sauce, which was slightly thick and very flavourful. The totopos, broken into pieces, made an excellent device for transmitting the meat and sauce from plate to mouth, though the fried tortillas themselves were nothing to get excited about. 

Last city inspection: July 2012
13 demerits
The other accoutrements of a meal at La Siberia were average: a basket of reasonably good chips, a small bowl of reasonably good salsa, reasonably good coffee, and reasonably good tortillas, both flour and corn. The flour tortillas were clearly made in-house, but the corn tortillas had the uniformity that indicates machine-production. All these things were good enough to pass muster without detracting from the superior aspects of the meal.

The only complaint I have about the food, really, is that it must have had a lot of salt in it, as I have spent the afternoon craving water like a rabies victim. It's not as bad as when I lose all self-control and eat a slice of pizza from Pizza Hut, but it's still annoying. (I suspect it was the consommé.)

The place itself (which, I think, used to be a KFC store) is clean and comfortable, if unremarkable for its décor; let's call it functional and well-kept. It's not a large place, but neither is it cramped. One unusual aspect of the layout is that all the tables (all two-tops) are arranged in airliner-style: tables for four on the right, tables for six on the left. It looks odd, but I'm sure that, too, is functional.

The service is attentive and not overbearing. Our waitress was less comfortable with English than I am with Spanish, so we used both languages interchangeably. I didn't order a grilled tractor, and with that I am content. 

Prices are reasonable, about what you'd expect to pay. I noticed one dish that was more than ten bucks, but most are in the seven- to eight-dollar range.
La Siberia Mexicana, Inc. on Urbanspoon

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