I try not to make a habit of visiting restaurants that have been open less than two weeks, but there I was last night, opening night, at The Americano with a friend who was in town on business. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by several hostesses and immediately seated in a bright teal booth pre-set with white plates and pale coral-pink napkins, under a flamingo studded sunset mural. Appropriate and fun! Chips and salsa were delivered to our table almost immediately. The chips have a smoky spice to them, but the salsa was mild to the point of blandness.
Our waitress came over and introduced herself, had several recommendations for drinks and appetizers, but was not overbearing. We went with the Shrimp Picante and two drinks from the cocktail menu ( Hibiscus Paloma and Mexican Mule). The shrimp had a light batter and was tossed in a creamy sauce with a thai chili sauce sweetness to it, but no spice to back it up. Not what I expected from a dish with Picante in the title and “spicy” called out in English in the description. It was hauntingly reminiscent of the Bang Bang shrimp at a certain Tanger Outlets seafood chain.
The drinks arrived at the table conservatively 20 minutes after we ordered them, ice cold, leading me to believe it was an issue with the bar and not the server. I was initially disturbed by the Kool-Aid red color of the Hibiscus Paloma, but one taste dispelled any concerns. The hibiscus and vanilla are a welcome twist on the classic drink, and the grapefruit keeps it light and refreshing. The Mexican Mule was served in a frozen copper mug, with tequila in place of the usual vodka found in the Moscow Mule, and was fabulously spicy from the ginger beer. I am definitely going to recreate this tequila-based mule at home in the near future.
The tacos are listed on the menu as sets of two or three of a kind, but our waitress graciously let us mix them up, so we got a chicken and a shrimp taco. On both tacos, the tortillas were the store-bought flour variety. On the chicken taco, the mojo flavor wasn’t very apparent, and it was topped with the same bland salsa from the earlier chips, but the slices of avocado on the taco were generous, even though I’m not sure what made them an avocado “salsa” as the menu indicated. The shrimp taco was the darling of the main course; well-seasoned shrimp on a bed of cilantro and roasted corn salsa, topped with thin slices of raw serrano peppers for chilies for bite. The dish came with beans and rice on the side: unfortunately, the small portion of black beans that was perched atop the bowl of grossly overcooked and gummy rice tasted purely of cumin and was still crunchy. The pico served on the side was unexpectedly peppery, but it worked, and ended up being the only thing on the plate other than the shrimp that I wanted to eat all of.
We also tried the Pollo con Mojo, a half chicken served atop cuban black beans and rice, with a side of fried plantains. For some reason the beans that came with this dish were not undercooked, but they suffered the same seasoning issues as the taco side dish. The fried plantains were crispy on the outside and warm, gooey, fresh-sweet goodness on the inside. Very well done. Once again, though, the chicken was dry and lacking in the type of mojo flavor we’d expect.
The clear winner of the night was the dessert, which we almost didn’t order after such a lacking meal: the Brigadeiros! Neither of us was familiar with the Cuban-style truffles, and after the waitress’s description of them, we decided this was our last chance to have something with an authentic cuban flair that evening. The truffles were excellent. Served as four sets of two: piña colada, toasted coconut, hazelnut chocolate, and dark chocolate, they were eaten from lightest to darkest, building in intensity with each set. The texture was creamy and sweet, but not tooth-achingly so.
Great drinks and service, but the food has a long way to go.
Hibiscus Paloma, Mexican Mule, and probably anything else from the cocktail menu, too.
Mt Pleasant, South Carolina. 819 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464