The long awaited Mi Cocina Mexican Restaurant has finally opened in The Woodlands (Nov. 2011). The store was originally planned to open earlier this summer but, various delays prevented that from happening. Mi Cocina now occupies the space formerly held by Rockfish Seafood across from other Woodlands Mall Restaurants such as Panera Bread, The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and directly adjacent to Brio and Fleming's Steak House.
Mi Cocina operates under the M Crowd Restaurant Group, along with another 25 restaurants under three names – Mi Cocina, Taco Diner, and The Mercury. Offering a Tex-Mex menu, Mi Cocina adds their own dining experience to a plethora of Tex Mex Restaurants in The Woodlands.
There are 16 locations in the Dallas area, including Preston Forest, Highland Park Village, and West Village shopping centers. They are also located in Las Colinas, Plano, Southlake, and Fort Worth, among others. They have recently opened their first Oklahoma Mi Cocina in Tulsa on Cherry Street. Now that The Woodlands location is open, they plan to expand to other states.
While we don't normally visit a new restaurant on the first day, we felt that the large number of Mi Cocina stores in existence would allow for an early tasting. We were welcomed in as the inner doors opened and promptly seated in the patio area. The patio area is mostly enclosed but has several large windows that when open, should allow for a nice exchange of air and ambience of the courtyard area around the mall. Fall and Spring seasons are a great time for bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating.
The staff at Mi Cocina was prompt, courteous and friendly; a nice touch at any restaurant - even the hostess introduced herself to us as we were seated. Our server arrived, took our order and we relaxed and admired the patio area as we waited for lunch. The chips and salsa are unlike other Mexican / Tex Mex restaurants where we have eaten in the area. They are a thick, seemingly home style type of chip possibly made from a darker base of meal and fried to a pleasing, crispy texture. They did not appear to be mass-produced and sold by the likes of Sysco or Glazier (two well known restaurant food distributors). The salsa was mostly chopped tomato, water and jalapeño, including several seeds. This made for a spicier, though less flavorful salsa.
We ordered the #6 ($8.95) and the lunch chicken fajitas ($12.95) which both arrived within about 15 minutes. The presentation was quite nice. The plates were colorful and well dressed, and by the looks of things, lunch was going to be quite tasty; or so we hoped.
The #6 plate is described as containing a Cheese Enchilada, a Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada, and a Cheese Taco. There was some initial confusion as what was presented appeared to be three enchiladas and no taco. The runner who brought our meals confirmed it was correct, but also asked his trainer just to be certain. The trainer explained the Cheese Taco is actually a soft taco corn tortilla, rolled and covered in queso. Ah, mystery solved. The Cheese Taco was pretty good, like a cheese enchilada without onions. The Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada was average at best; not a bad flavor, but nothing to really distinguish the flavor of the cheese, the chicken or the corn tortilla. The Cheese Enchilada however, was simply inedible. The meat gravy used to top (and fill?) the enchilada had a burned-cheese flavor to it, and the tortilla was different than those used in the sour cream chicken enchilada and the cheese taco; it seemed flavored with an abundance of cumin or some other strong seasoning.
The Chicken Fajitas were cooked to a tender and slightly moist consistency, with an ample serving of rice, beans, guacamole and a unique blend of pico. Oddly enough, the chicken was served up directly on the plate rather than on a sizzling skillet, as is the common practice. The entire plate was served at only slightly above room temperature which was dis sap pointing; after the first fajita, the remainder of the meal was cold while the #6 plate continued to be hot. We prefer our fajitas on corn tortillas, and those brought to the table were a thicker version of the typical, assembly-line pre-processed type. On a side note, this is the first time in a long time that we have seen potatoes served atop fajitas in a Tex-Mex restaurant; the potato slices did not appear to be very fresh and did not add any apparent benefit visual or otherwise, to the meal.
Despite our disappointment in the food, the service @ Mi Cocina was top-notch. The management has seemingly done a fantastic job with choosing and training the staff. Our server stopped by frequently without pestering us throughout our meal; keeping our glasses full and table clutter free. We noted other servers doing the same with their tables. A manager came by towards the end of our meal, listening in earnest to our comments and feedback. This is something that should occur at all restaurants but frequently does not. We applaud the manager at Mi Cocina for taking the time to visit with us because without direct input from clients, how are they to really know where improvements can be made.
Overall, the food was fairly neutral in flavor; not bad but not that good either. If you've got a hankering for some Tex-Mex, Mi Cocina might not fit the bill and there remains a large umber of choices for a Tex-Mex experience in the woodlands. Mi Cocina does quite well in Dallas-Fort Worth, but that stands to reason - the farther north you wander from the "Mex" in Tex-Mex, the less flavorful the Tex-Mex becomes. Tex-Mex is a southern thing.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide!
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