2013 | Dine

First Taste: Mi Cocina

Decent chain fare in chi chi surroundings

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There are lots of restaurants where the lively atmosphere and appealing décor make the food appear better than it is. After a small sampling of dishes at Mi Cocina, the Dallas-based Tex-Mex chain that opened last month in Chevy Chase, my first inclination is to plunk it in that category.

The Collection in Chevy Chase address certainly lends cachet, and the floral gold-leaf paintings and one-of-a-kind vases done by Mexican artist Luis Sottil give the place an upscale feel. And the efficient wait staff, wearing snazzy cobalt shirts, darts around as Latin music plays in the background (think “Oye Como Va”).

The food, however, isn’t a fancy take on Tex-Mex, but standard fare that’s just a little dressed up. So the brisket tacos come with green cilantro rice and a pretty little side salad with avocado, tomatoes and tortilla strips.

But that brisket, described on the menu as “oven roasted overnight” really does taste steamy and reheated, like warmed-over pot roast. Thank goodness for the corn tortillas, which have a distinctive ground corn flavor, and the accompanying multi-layered chile de arbol sauce, which rescue the dish.

Chips and salsaI also sampled the “house favorite” Rico Salad, a somewhat stingy array of fajita chicken slices tossed with lettuce, grape tomatoes, crispy tortilla strips, wedges of sliced avocado, shredded cheese and a creamy pink dressing with a kick. It’s a decent rendition, but nothing spectacular. Ditto for the house salsa and thick-cut tortilla chips.

The menu is extensive at Mi Cocina, so I’m willing to give it another try. I guess I was just hoping that the food would be as jazzy as the surroundings.

5471 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-652-1195, www.micocinarestaurants.com