IN THE KITCHEN I’ve wanted the recipe for El Sarape’s cilantro sauce for ages, but whenever I’ve asked, all I’ve gotten is a smile. Javier Adame, who owns the restaurant with his brother Guillermo, learned it from his mother growing up in Saltillo, Mexico. On Oct. 6, the Braintree restaurant will celebrate 30 years in business, and Javier has been in the kitchen the whole time, turning out consistently good authentic Mexican fare. I’ve eaten there for 20 years and have never had a bad dish, nor have I ever heard anyone say anything but good things about the restaurant. “We always say our food is like Grandma’s in the kitchen cooking,” said Jessica Adame, Guillermo’s daughter. But Javier’s influences don’t end with his mother. He’s learned his craft by traveling throughout Mexico’s Gulf coast and northern regions, and says his food is what you get there in finer restaurants.
THE LOCALE El Sarape’s simple storefront space is still in its original location in Weymouth Landing, although you might not think so because of the massive demolition that’s surrounded the small building over the last couple years. After 20 months of construction, Landing 53, a 172-unit apartment building, finally opened in January, putting an end to the upheaval it brought to the restaurant. “I’m still getting calls from customers thinking we’ve moved,” said Jessica. “Our regulars kept us alive during the construction. They came in two or three times a week because they were afraid we’d close.” This spring, the Adames did a small renovation themselves, extending their popular bar and redecorating the interior.
ON THE MENU Whenever I go to El Sarape, I’m almost always after the pescado cilantro ($17.95) because I like it so much. Every single time it’s exactly the same satisfying dish. (Consistency is a high mark for a restaurant to achieve.) A filet of white fish is sauced with the aforementioned slightly tart tomatillo-based cilantro sauce and sided with the restaurant’s simple black beans and rice. The kitchen is good at all the standards you’d expect– tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas — but also turns out unique dishes. The carnitas appetizer is a bowl of tender pork bites marinated in a rich, smoky orange chipotle sauce that can double as an additional dip for the chips (and salsa) that come with every meal. El Sarape makes three or four different red sauces and the same number of green ones. I love that they are almost all saucy, yet not oily. (“We do a lot with vegetables,” said Jessica.) The pollo y arroz ($4.50), chicken rice soup, has a lovely, light broth, and I like the restaurant’s mild black beans, but its bean soup ($4.25) is too plain for me. Of course, you could perk the soup up eating it with the very good guacamole ($7.50). The enchiladas verde ($14.25) is three tasty chicken enchiladas smothered with a green tomato sauce and cheese. Once a weekend special, the popular rib eye steak ($22.45) is now on the menu. There’s a family-style feel to this dish: It’s two large slices of grilled steak stuffed with onions, wilted spinach, bacon, and mushrooms. Very good. I like the pescado relleno ($21.95) even better. Another stuffed dish, this one has a chili poblano sauce topped with cheese and filled with shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, and onions. One of our friends, who liked the coconut flan ($6.25) thinks that a well-done dessert is the sign of a good Mexican restaurant. True or not, I already knew that about El Sarape.
El Sarape, 5 Commercial St., Braintree, 781-843-8005, www.elsarape.com.
Joan Wilder can be reached at email@example.com