Chow, Baby: Wednesday, July 28 2004
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Essentials

You’ve noticed Essensia, Albertson’s line of “premium” private-label foods? It includes some cookies and sauces, but it’s mainly fancy frozen entrées in elegant Euro-style silvertone wrapping and with prices apparently pegged to the Euro (that is, pretty high for a house brand). What grabs Chow, Baby is the “What’s essential is the ...” tagline on each package. For example, the cheddar-cheese-stuffed potatoes carton reads, “What’s essential is the cheese.” As with most successful taglines, you think, “Well, duh,” but it sticks in your head.

Thus Chow, Baby was at La Playa Maya, 3200 Hemphill St., thinking: When it comes to fajitas, what’s essential is the sizzle. These didn’t have any. They were just sitting there dead on the platter, on a bed of semi-raw onions. And they came to our table before the appetizers. That’s not just sloppy service; it means the fajitas weren’t cooked fresh to order (sacrilege!). This was disheartening, since La Playa Maya had figured to be a sure bet to break Chow, Baby’s recent streak of not-quite-great Tex-Mex.

The rest of the meal, however, was indeed great. Spinach quesadillas ($6.85) arrived crispy-hot, stuffed with freshly sautéed spinach and gooey Monterey Jack. Queso dip ($2.55) did not taste like Campbell’s cheese soup. Chicken enchiladas verdes ($7.35) were plump and juicy, and the waitress knew the difference between green and red sauce. The star of the show: camarones al mojo de ajo ($10.95), garlicky sautéed shrimp on a bed of soak-up-the-juices steaming rice. La Playa Maya may miss every once in a while, but they’ve got the essentials down.


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