It might seem like an odd place to begin a restaurant review, but the bathroom at El Centro’s new location, El Centro Dos, bears mentioning. Its design— a toilet painted with a desert scene complete with cacti, some kind of joke about sitting on a cactus perhaps? – is indicative of the Mexican restaurant’s attention to stylistic detail and its artsy, evocative aesthetic.
A couple of years ago, Brookline resident Allan Rodriguez opened El Centro in the South End, to great success. This second restaurant honoring his homeland, Mexico, opened this summer, bringing a chic café/cantina to sleepy Brookline Village. Though it doesn’t rival the bathroom’s bohemian Baja splendor, the dining room is similarly artsy and organic, with brick, wood and the likeness of patron saint of free Mexico, Ms. Frida Kahlo, staring aloofly into the ether from a far wall.
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Food comes fast and you’re soon scooping up guacamole – theirs is sprinkled liberally with queso — with some of the crispest tortilla chips this side of the border. As with most dishes at Dos, salt is an afterthought, allowing for subtle, but real flavor. Go for a simple salsa verde-topped enchilada stuffed with grilled asparagus and corn and served with rice and beans or plump fish tacos (though, sadly, they did not arrive in the wheat tortillas the menu promised).
Or, choose one of the more sophisticated dishes such as salmon molcajetes, which is served on a lava stone and is deliciously gooey, with loads of melted queso.
For dessert, there’s the ubiquitous flan – aka Mexican crème caramel – and Dos’s is scrumptious. Dense and sticky, but served with a mean portion of fresh blueberries and bits of strawberry, it’s a better version of the standard Mexican dessert than most. With a bit more fruit, it might have rivaled the bathroom in color.