- NEW ON THE SEAFOOD SIDE: Poblano pepper stuffed with shrimp and crab.
Cozymels, the popular Mexican restaurant in the Markham-and-Shackleford neighborhood, has added several new items to its menu. That's more than enough reason for us to pay a return visit.
Still, it was an old favorite — one of the principal dishes by which we judge the quality of Mexican restaurants — that maybe gave us the most pleasure. Cozymels chile con queso is among the best in town, a well-seasoned blend of yellow and white cheeses topped with pico de gallo. The red-and-yellow chips with it were more than serviceable. We could scarcely get enough.
When we finished with the cheese dip, more or less, we dived into some new dishes. One was the cilantro churri steak fajitas, described on the menu as "Fresh, marinated beef with fajita peppers, onions and Mexican potatoes served in a hot iron skillet and topped with warm melted cheese and a drizzle of zesty cilantro churri sauce; served with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, black beans and warm tortillas." It was a lot of food, sort of like a casserole, and it had its good points, but while we were eating it, we found ourselves thinking that there's such a thing as combining too many ingredients, especially when everything is covered with an annoyingly stringy cheese. The meat was tender; some of it tasted a little charred.
Chipotle pesto chicken is another new entry in the fajitas department.
Our companion ordered from the combination plate section of the menu, where one selects two or three dishes from a list of several. All come with Yucatan rice and your choice of black beans and refritos. Her choices were a pork tamale, a beef enchilada, and chile relleno, a sauteed poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and covered with a mild sort of tomato sauce. The batter on the pepper wasn't quite as crispy as she would have liked; the beef enchilada was good but didn't come with the green sauce she'd ordered, and the pork tamale, though also good, was more corn meal wrapping than pork.
When the waitress first came to our booth, she asked for our drink orders. (Offered a choice between booth and table, we chose booth, thinking one side of the booth would be wall. But at Cozymels, the booths run down the center of the restaurant, and diners are exposed on both sides, losing that little extra privacy one expects from a booth.) One of us ordered sangria, which she found nicely fruity. The other asked for a regular cocktail, a scotch and water, to drink while studying the menu. Though Cozymels has a full bar, this order of a non-Mexican drink baffled the waitress, and, as she told it, the bartender. The cocktail didn't arrive until the food was there. During the meal, our party had a Dos Equis amber on tap and a Bohemia in the bottle.
Looking back, we may have made a mistake by not ordering seafood. That's probably what Cozymels is best-known for, and they're offering several new dishes: Salmon, shrimp, scallops and vegetables marinated and steamed in a paper pouch (Mariscos Empapelados); five jumbo shrimp sauteed with garlic in a chile sauce (Fideo Pasta con Camarones); five jumbo shrimp sauteed in fresh garlic butter, Serrano peppers and lime juice, served with Mexican-style roasted pasta; a fresh poblano pepper stuffed with shrimp and crab, served atop ranchero sauce and drizzled with lime sour cream.
Cozymels is congenial and there's a big menu to order from. Maybe not the best Mexican restaurant in town, but not bad.