Thursday, September 6, 2012
Painted Burro: Food And Sound
It was an interesting invitation, or two invitations I should say. A group of local food bloggers and writers were asked to dinner at The Painted Burro, a fairly new Mexican restaurant in Davis Square in the space formerly occupied by Gargoyle's and owned by the same people who operate Pizzeria Posto, just up the street. We were there to enjoy dinner, of course, but also to pay specific attention to the noise level. In coming months, sound-absorbing panels will be installed, after which we'll be invited back to experience the difference.
We were seated near to the very center of the dining room at a high-top table, not really my favorite as I never find them comfortable but that's just me. The seating gave us a slight elevation over the crowd as we were served Nachos and Salsa that were just about as good as they get. We sat for dinner at 8:00 p.m., the height of service and the place was filled with a young, energetic, fashionable crowd. I had not been here before and read a few reviews in advance, none of which complained about the noise level. It was loud but one did not have to scream to be heard by the person next to you and I rather liked the vibe of activity. It's predecessor, Gargoyle's, was a regular haunt for me and it was quite the quiet spot, I always thought. Painted Burro, however, has a completely different design. Gone are the heavy velvet drapes and banquettes. Everything here is a hard surface, which makes for noise.
I ordered the Mango Margarita: Agavales Blanco, Combier, Lime and Mango. Very refreshing and not overly sweet.
Other guests enjoyed the Burro Margarita Royale: Kah Organic Blanco, Damiana Liqueur and Lime Juice. This reportedly packed a greater punch and you are presented with the little bottle that the Kah comes in as a gift. They loved them.
Guacamole "El Mero Mero" included Pork Belly and Roasted Grape Tomato. This was excellent and a dish I would certainly order again, great guacamole. The din of the crowd had not subsided. There was laughter and loud conversation all around us but, again, it did not bother me at all.
The Empanadas were excellent, some even commenting that they were the best that they've had.
My favorite appetizer was this "Cholo" Corn Cob smothered in Roasted Garlic Aioli, Cotija Cheese and Cayenne. I only had one. I wanted several. The sweet corn with the cheesiness and garlic was a great combination of flavors.
My main was the Street Cart Chicken: 1/2 Giannone, Ochiote-Citrus Marinade, Fried Plantain and Tamarind Butter. The chicken was soft and buttery with a nice, crisp skin. A generous portion, again, excellent, rich flavors.
Others enjoyed Tacos such as the Pork Cochinita with Pineapple and Serrano Salsa with a Spicy Citrus Achiote. I was offered the beans served as a side which passed my taste testing with flying colors.
For dessert we almost all opted for the Tres Leches, the traditional sweet ending to a Mexican meal.
For some additional input on restaurant and sound design I consulted with Jennifer Glickman of Glickman Design Studio, who has worked on several restaurant/cafe interior designs. Here's what she had to say: "It's not a matter of what makes a restaurant sound good rather than it being a question of what makes the food taste good. Dining is a theatrical experience, from taste to smell to performance to visuals. A well thought out restaurant design encompasses all of those elements in a creative way that supports the chef's artistic talents for that restaurant concept and allows the cuisine to shine. A restaurant with erroneous acoustics (or lighting, hvac zoning, layout, fill in additional design elements...) distracts the diner from the cuisine and focuses them on the problematic issues. In addition, no diner wants to pay $30-$50/plate when they have to yell to their dinner party sitting 2 feet away from them." I think that pretty much sums up my attitude, as well. It basically all comes down to the flavor. As long as the service, atmosphere and ambiance do not detract from it I'm happy. The showcase can be simple or elegant but the real star is always the food and this worked just fine for me.
The Painted Burro
219 Elm Street