Philadelphia went far south of the Rio Grande with the opening of the new Mexican cuisine restaurant and tequila bar Xochitl (pronounced So Cheet) last month. While the weather still isn’t any better, the heat is on at Xochitl with an extensive offering of the best in hot and spicy across-the-border food and a 50-bottle selection of tequila as varied as the wine list of any high-end restaurant.
My guest and I began at the bar with cocktails and an interesting conversation with a knowledgeable bartender who briefed us on differences in the restaurant’s seemingly endless tequila offering.
Fifty kinds of tequila is a bit intimidating, so we began with a classic – a shooter of Patron Anejo ($12). Served with the shot was a second shooter of Sangrita, literally translating to “little blood.” The spicy tomato shot is meant to ease the burning of tequila and cleanse the palette between drinks.
Next I ordered a fantastic creation of Xochitl, called Bruja del 71 ($9) made with fresh coconut puree, Patron Pineapple liqueur and fresh pineapple juice, served “up.” My guest ordered a fun adaptation of a classic mojito named “Senor Barriga” ($8) mixed with mint tequila and fresh ground mint.
The service was friendly, conversant and well-versed in Spanish, considering the menu is written partly in the language. After a lesson in Spanish 101, my guest ordered Sopes, an appetizer of chorizo, duck breast and a hearty helping of goat cheese and black beans, served on freshly-prepared tortilla shells. The duck’s phenomenal flavor complimented well with the goat cheese.
I enjoyed the Tostadas de Ceviche for my appetizer, a selection of shrimp, octopus and Spanish mackerel mixed with jalapenos and avocado inside three delicious tortillas. The mackerel had a tender, sweet flavor with just enough spice.
Xochitl derives its name from a queen in Mexico who reigned during the 11th century. Her name means flower and is said to have created a forerunner of what we today know as tequila.
There’s little waiting for the food at Xochitl. Our entrees followed shortly after we finished our appetizers. For my entree, I chose the Pechuga de Pollo Rellena, flawlessly cooked chicken wrapped with huitlacoche in a sesame-crusted chicken skin with corn tortillas on the side and guajillo pepper sauce drizzled onto the platter. This combination of moist, sweet chicken and greens with a pepper cream sauce was truly enjoyable. My guest ordered Chamorro de Puerco, a brazed pork shank served with red onions, manzano peppers and guacamole. The platter’s design was perfect, and the pork’s taste was even better with a dribble of achiote sauce.
We ended our meal with a delicious cinnamon brewed dark coffee, a nice compliment to the moist fruit-filled brownie served with melting vanilla ice cream we shared for desert. While not the best part of the meal, we certainly had no complaints.
As temperatures continue to dip into the negative numbers, brush up on your Spanish and turn the temperature up (with the help of a few shots) at Xochitl.
Mexican food, 50-bottle tequila bar and lounge
208 S. 2nd Street
Appetizers: $6-15, entrees: $15-25, drinks $6-14, tequila (per shot) $5-53
Pat Dooner can be reached at email@example.com.