A Mexican Romance



Besito’s Ceviche del Dia

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Classical guitar music and flickering candlelight weave romance into Besito Mexican’s atmosphere—and that is the intent. The intimate 100-seat space transports guests far from the clamor and bright lights of its Burlington Mall location, evoking a hacienda in Mexico right down to the striking decorative artifacts collected during owner John Tunney’s many trips south of the border. Even the name is romantic—translated Besito means “little kiss,” and guests are courted by both the food and the culture of Mexico. Attentive staff address guests in Spanish and English, and with a wall of more than 150 candles providing a backdrop, one can almost feel the warmth of Mexico.

The ambience is no mere façade—right from the starter of complimentary roasted tomato jalapeño salsa, made fresh daily and pounded by hand in a traditional molcajete, or stone bowl, Besito elevates classic Mexican dishes to impressive heights.

The menu is a mixture of creative interpretations of familiar dishes and some lesser-known foods. The impressively knowledgeable waitstaff are happy to describe various ingredients found in the many intensely flavored sauces and salsas, and to explain how the guacamole turns out so creamy. As they prepare it tableside, on a cart piled high with avocados, and bowls of onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, servers will describe how they select a perfectly ripe avocado (the trick is pressing on the tip), and then split it open and add seasoning to the customer’s liking. Hate cilantro? No problem. Love tomatoes? Ask for extra.

Follow that with the vibrant Ceviche del Dia, a specialty of executive chef Carlos Arellano, who started cooking at age 12 at his family’s Mexico City cevicheria or seafood restaurants. On a recent visit, the ceviche—raw fish “cooked” in an acidic citrus juice—married generous chunks of shrimp with diced mango. The dish’s tongue-tingling heat was tamed by the crispy sweet plantains served alongside the more traditional tortilla chips. Another appetizer, the Panquesito de Jaiba, is a delicious reinvention of the traditional crab cake. Airy with just enough breading to hold it together, the crab cake is served with a smoky, intensely flavored roasted-tomato chipotle cream sauce and topped with roasted corn.

Main dishes include tacos, enchiladas, and a wide range of seafood options, expertly prepared using traditional recipes with a focus on sustainable, organic, and house-made ingredients. The iron skillet tacos mixtos are a feast for the eyes and the palate—strips of tender grilled skirt steak, smoky chorizo, and chicken topped with melted Chihuahua cheese are beautifully presented in a small square pan with corn tortillas. Seafood lovers will enjoy the Alambre de Camarones, a large skewer of grilled shrimp served with salsa verde, pico de gallo, and calabacitas, a mixture of green zucchini, yellow squash, diced tomatoes, diced onions, chopped garlic, and chipotle purée.

Not surprisingly, tequila is the star of the drinks list. While the restaurant offers a number of classic margaritas and an impressive list of tequilas for sipping or flights for tasting, cocktail lovers should check out the more adventurous options. The Cocoloma, made with coconut tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit soda, and lime juice, is refreshing and well balanced. The Margarita de Tamarindo is refreshingly tart but with some weight, thanks to a mixture of tamarind and passion fruit purées and a chipotle salted rim—a delicious choice for the transition from winter to spring.

For dessert, try the Tres Leches cake, luscious and redolent of vanilla. Besito offers a final embrace before exiting: Each guest is presented with a bag of churros—those delicious Mexican crullers—and a Mexican worry doll to take away your troubles, if you have any after your mini-vacation south of the border. besitomexican.com.

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