Originally, our weekend was supposed to revolve around my job’s belated holiday party at our beloved Alor Cafe on Saturday evening. However, a record breaking blizzard (so annoyingly named Jonas), had to swoop in and sabotage my life. We rescheduled the holiday party and knowing that we’d probably be trapped in the house all weekend, Jason and I decided we should do our own date night on Friday. After our yummy meal at Victory Cantina a few weeks back, we’ve been on a Mexican food kick, and we decided to try Maizal in Staten Island. Located on Bay Street, where you’ll find numerous other trendy restaurants, Maizal has a reputation of being a slightly higher end spot.
We headed to the restaurant at about 6:30 and were greeted warmly upon entering. My photos of the menu are above, including the daily specials, but here’s the link to the restaurant’s version, which are much clearer: Appetizers and Entrees
Learning to photograph with an iPhone 6plus, usually at night, in some of the dimmest settings has been one of my biggest challenges, I will admit.
For drinks, we decided to go with Jalapeño and Herradura Margaritas. I was happy to see a nice list of tequilas and even happier that our waitress was knowledgable on them, as I have basically no knowledge on agave spirits other than knowing that I like them. The margaritas were great: the jalapeño one had a significant kick to it; Jason wound up drinking that one, and I preferred the classic Herradura version.
The salsa was good, a hint of spiciness but not too overwhelming. The tortillas could have been a little fresher, but they were perfectly edible and yummy nonetheless.
For appetizers we went with the sweet plantain with garlic shrimp and avocado and chorizo potato empanadas. The winner of this round was the plantain: the shrimp was cooked excellently, and the weird spicy caramelized drizzle on top was unusual and outstanding. This dish was great. But the empanadas were a little blah. They smelled super chorizo-ey but lacked the flavor that the delicious aroma teased. Not bad, just missing something.
For our next round of drinks Jason did another jalapeño margarita while I opted for the hibiscus margarita. This was unlike me, as I don’t typically go for fruity variations of cocktails, but I’ll admit it was pretty delicious and not overly sweet. I did this margarita with the Herradura tequila again, and think I’m officially a fan.
For entrees we went with the special pork belly tacos and the beef empanadas de mole poblano. The smoked pork belly tacos were outrageous: the meat was incredibly tender and flavorful and porky, just the way we like it. The portion was generous (this was actually an appetizer), as we each got a taco loaded with belly. I could eat these for breakfast, if I had to. The enchiladas were a choice we made based on the recommendation of a few of my coworkers. And I will say that the mole sauce was exceptional… more cocoa flavor than you’d ever expect, but balanced perfectly with the spicy and earthy other flavors in the sauce. My problem with this dish came after I tasted the glorious mole sauce by itself. I was so excited to devour my enchilada and savor the amazing chocolatey-ness of the dish. But I realized that when I got into the beefy center, that the flavor of the beef’s marinade completely overpowered the mole. I found myself scooping up the mole sauce, and searching for it in each bite, but not really ever finding it unless I ate it in complete isolation. And the beef wasn’t necessarily a problem… it was nice and tender, and the flavor of it was really great. But it completely overpowered the mole, which should have been the star of the dish. I wonder if we’d chosen the vegetable or chicken filling for the enchiladas if things would have been different… a milder filling would have been a lot better balanced.
After dinner we each did a coffee, and shared the churros and tres leches cake. They were both delicious and exactly what you would expect of each dessert, but really nothing more than that.
What Jason and I did find very weird was the service in this place. When we first came in, the restaurant only had two or three other tables full, and we received plenty of attention. In fact, we were asked by multiple waiters if we were ready for our second round, and almost felt that the service was too much for the first half of the meal. We counted a total of four employees taking our orders and serving us. The restaurant is small, maybe 15 tables all together. And by the end of the meal they were around 75% full… not overwhelmingly busy. But after the overzealous service at the start of our meal, it seemed like they kind of forgot about us by the end. We waited a while to be brought the dessert menu and to order, and then literally waited thirty minutes after we finished before anyone checked on us again so that we could ask for the bill.
Overall, the food here is good, solid Mexican food. We loved their selection of tequilas and really enjoyed our cocktails (although I would have liked a mescal option, which was a criticism of Victory Cantina as well… is there any place on Staten Island offering mescal???). The food was good with some standouts being the plantain and the pork belly tacos. But overall, I think the place lacked some originality or pizazz which would warrant the slightly higher than average price point. For being one of the more upscale Mexican options on the island, I wish they had a couple of wacky new menu options for us adventurous eaters. Or I wish they did something special to the very traditional dishes that they do offer to make them really stand out. The menu consisted of everything I would expect to find on a Mexican restaurant’s menu, and nothing more than that. I’m hoping the inconsistency with the service was just a total fluke, but it was annoying. I’d encourage anyone on the island to check the place out and let me know what you think about it. For me, they earned a three star Baconboozer rating… but I’d be willing to go back for another margarita and one more try at a meal.