I finally made it to Authentico in Lake Forest. Open since late last summer, a number of readers had recommended that I give it a try.
It’s clearly a popular family destination, although the kids disappeared after 8 p.m. The room has a festive feel, and given the happy bustle and convivial atmosphere I witnessed on a recent Friday night, I wasn’t the only one with a Margarita in mind!
It’s Margarita Time
You can get many a flavored Margarita here, including coconut, mango, and raspberry, or even opt for an $18 tasting of three. I went with the La Flaca Margarita ($9.50), their version of a skinny margarita, made with fresh lime juice, Sauza tequila and Triple sec, but no added sugar. The Delicioso ($8.50), fresh grapefruit juice and vodka muddled with mint, was tart and refreshing.
The menu is very friendly to the gluten-free folks among us, a number that seems to grow exponentially with every passing year. It’s nice to see it specifically and clearly noted.
You will want to order the Guacamole de Authentico ($4/8) to complement the bowl of warm, fresh corn tortilla chips and homemade salsas (a mild roasted tomato and a spicier tomatillo) that are brought to every table. It’s a bare-bones guac, no tomatoes, just ripe avocadoes, salt and fresh lime juice, but it does the trick. They also offer a guac of the day with different mix-ins if you like it fancier.
Crunchy Jicama Salad and Plump Shrimp
I would also recommend the Jicama y Naranja ($7), a toss of crunchy jicama cubes, cucumber, juicy orange segments, lime juice and Pico Limón (a popular Mexican spice mix). The Camarones Envueltos en Tocino ($15), hot, bacon-wrapped shrimp served over a cool, chunky avocado salsa, were a hit; the five shrimp were big and plump. They were also served with a tomatillo-poblano mole that I thought was a tad sweet for the dish.
A special of Chicken Tamales ($10) had good flavor from the mole sauce, but the tamale itself had a weird, dry texture that did it no favors. I was looking forward to the Elotitos ($6), everyone’s favorite Mexican street food of corn on the cob, brushed with a mayonnaise-y dressing, rolled in grated Cotija cheese and sprinkled with ancho chile powder. The taste was there, but the dish suffered because it was served lukewarm rather than piping hot.
The Main Event
Entrees were a mixed bag. The Huachiningo a la Veracruzana ($21), a moist snapper filet in the classic roasted tomato sauce with capers, green olives and fresh oregano, was yummy, as were the accompanying fresh, sautéed green beans topped with pico de gallo, but the rice was oily and tasteless.
We enjoyed the Filet de Res ($28), a tender 8-ounce filet topped with melted Cotija and Jack cheeses and served over a warm and smoky chile morita salsa, but they were mighty stingy with the billed cremini mushrooms, and again, the rice was tasteless.
The Tinga Tacos ($14), seasoned and shredded chicken with romaine lettuce and a too-chunky mango salsa, which came with black beans and more of the cilantro lime rice, were just OK, although the corn tortillas, to their credit, were homemade. The Shrimp and Crab Enchiladas ($18), a special of the day, came covered in that same sweet poblano sauce, and it fared no better the second time around.
A Sweet Finish
For dessert, we opted for the Cinnamon-Chocolate Cake ($7), which was moist and chocolatey, but the buttercream icing would have benefitted from time out of the refrigerator. While the Coconut Flan ($7) had a really deep coconut flavor that we liked, the texture of the flan itself was a little too dense.
As always, keep in mind that this is one person’s opinion. Many of the people who recommended it are fans, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying the food. But I’ve had much better Mexican food on the North Shore (Wholly Frijoles, La Casa de Isaac and Guanajuato come immediately to mind), and I’ve got to be honest with my readers! The truth is, I wasn’t too impressed.
2.5 out of 5 stars (B-)
Authentico Mexican Restaurant & Bar
770 N. Western Ave.