Fogata's Cocina Mexicana, a new upscale Mexican restaurant in Haltom City, is somewhat of a departure for co-owner Martha Marioni.
For 20 years, Marioni was one of the owners of Haltom City favorite Oscar's Mexican Restaurant, and for the past year, she has been the namesake behind Martha's Mexican Cocina, not far from Fogata's.
Opened this summer by Marioni and restaurant first-timer Mike Ajameh, Fogata's is a visual stunner, with two mammoth dining rooms, one of which contains a full bar, and triplet indoor waterfalls.
An urban theme is punctuated by partial stone walls, high ceilings and a painted concrete floor.
Colorful, cutout images of fire are scattered along the walls -- hence the name "Fogata," which translates to "campfire."
It's quite a change from the modest atmospheres of Oscar's and Martha's.
In step with the visual razzle-dazzle, the Fogata's menu takes a sophisticated approach to Mexican food. Nachos, tortas and fajitas are on the menu, but so are sauces made with wine and enchiladas stuffed with scallops.
Dishes are beautifully presented, and, Marioni says, everything is prepared in-house.
Many of the dishes were done very well, such as the generous serving of the appetizer jalapeño cream soup ($3.99). Filled with chopped jalapeño and pico de gallo, it had a nice, thick texture, as well as a spicy aftershock that was masked by its richness.
The camaron Vallarta entree ($12.99) also was excellent. A large poblano pepper was stuffed with grilled whole shrimp.
On top of the pepper, under a blanket of mild, creamy poblano sauce, was a thin egg crepe, not the usual fried batter -- a creative touch. On the side was a plop of fresh guacamole.
A chicken dish, pechuga Maya ($11.99), was very good, too. While chicken can be a challenge to make interesting, Fogata's certainly succeeded in doing so, smothering a thin, grilled breast in a lusciously flavored sauce made of white wine and cilantro.
But the rice and refried and black beans that accompanied the entrees were a bit dull.
Also, tortilla soup, a cup of which came with the pechuga Maya, was disappointingly light on both flavor and texture.
Service was friendly but inconsistent. After being seated immediately and delivered crisp yellow corn chips and hearty salsa, 12 minutes passed before a server appeared.
When asked about menu particulars, two times he responded, "I don't know."
Water glasses stayed empty for half the meal. And the check was delivered without a dessert offering, when the entrees weren't finished.
The server explained that the restaurant was short-handed, and that he typically works the bar; only two other servers were spotted.
Desserts more than made up for the iffy service.
A plate of triangular, three-bite sopaipillas ($2.99) arrived perfectly cooked with brown edges, plenty of cinnamon and streaks of honey. They were garnished with a fresh strawberry and whip cream.
Chocoflan ($5.25) was the real impresser. An imaginative flan/cake combination composed of a caramel flan top and a moist, chocolate cake base, it was served in a pool of white and dark chocolate sauces, and was as spectacular as its surroundings.