Just when you thought the north-side Fort Worth strip of Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries — anchored by the venerable La Playa Maya along with other vintage establishments such as El Asadero, El Rancho Grande, Los Paisanos, Chalios, and Nuevo Leon — couldn’t get any more crowded, make way for Flamingo’s, perhaps the neighborhood’s most authentic purveyor of Acapulco-Guerrero regionally influenced Mexican cooking.
Open since early April, and the brainchild of Paulino Barrios, who 16 years ago launched the Acapulco eatery Cayuca 2000, Flamingo’s is an uncommonly airy, sun-and-accordion-music filled space, painted in desert shades of mustard and ocher. Its spacious room is only accented by two poster-sized flamingo paintings hanging on a far wall.
The lack of interior flourishes is offset by the visual fireworks from the menu at Flamingo’s, starting with the appetizer of guacamole con totopos ($5.95). Vibrant emerald green chunks of avocado, served with shards of yellow corn tortilla chips and topped with bits of glistening tomato and onion, make this guac an exceptional first nibble.
A painter’s palette of color continues with the nachos Mexicanos ($6.95), as burnished chips carry a heap of crunchy, bright green and white lettuce strips, more vibrant nubbins of red tomato and earthen-colored beans, all topped with brilliant white racing stripes of sour cream.
While the third starter, a ceviche de pescado, ($9.95) certainly maintains the generous portion policy at Flamingo’s, its chunks of tilapia all but drown in a king’s goblet of a wan, soupy sauce.
This timid-tasting ceviche could have used a serious pick-me-up from one of the restaurant’s house sauces. One combines peanuts and fiery guajillo chiles, while the second is a seemingly innocuous avocado-based number that conceals a sneaky jolt of serrano pepper. A quick swig from one of the restaurant’s freshly squeezed juices (it also serves wine and beer while it waits for its full liquor license) douses that peppery heat.
A Flamingo’s house special of chicken enchiladas ($8.95) boasts a green tomatillo sauce whose notes of cilantro and thyme brighten an already tasty, minced chicken filling. The alambre coyuca ($9.75) brings an unctuous layer of melted mozzarella cheese (the popular Italian cheese is a staple of regional Mexican cooking) that canopies a stew of house-made pork chorizo, herb-marinated steak, and a mix of Spanish onions and green sweet peppers.
The clear entree star at Flamingo’s, shrimp Veracruz, ($13.95) finds the saute chefs in rare form. They not only elicit a level of grill-like smoky flavor from the most prosaic assortment of green peppers, tomatoes, and onions, but the shrimp arrives delicately charred and delivers a wonderful, juicy succulence.
Flamingo’s home-made credo continues into dessert with its vertigo-inducing high-rise of pineapple cake ($4.95). It is so shot through with pineapple flavor that every bite retains a welcome moistness, and any potentially cloying sweetness is nicely offset by squiggles of tangy raspberry sauce.
Barrios made it a point of dining repeatedly at all of the neighboring eateries before deciding that he would open Flamingo’s. Clearly, after weeks of hearing a chorus of chorizo and a symphony of salsa blasting from all the other restaurants, Barrios felt Flamingo’s still had something distinctively flavorful to add to the music.
So far, he’s singing right on key.