I was seriously tempted not to write a review of Anita’s “New Mexico” Mexican Food in Fairfax, Virginia. When a place is bad, and a review bad, after all, it IS publicity. There is a reasonable chance one of the precious few readers of this blog might just try it on a whim, because hey it might be good – or the reader just wants to see what could inspire such venom. Doing this would mean that the restaurant would have claimed another unwitting victim. So I proceed carefully. I had passed Anita’s in Fairfax several times in the past, and had always been intrigued. I had heard of the New Mexico Chiles and how it rendered a particular subset of the standard Tex-Mex we are used to in most American Mexican joints. When I checked the place out on the internet its site talked about being a Virginia staple for thirty years – so I was optimistic.
Arriving at the restaurant on a frigid Friday night here, I noted the restaurant seemed – well, not exactly crowded. That said, depending on neighborhood that is not really an indicator of much. The menu looked promising enough – the usual suspects (burritos, flautas, chalupas) but not that many – almost no seafood dishes – so it could be a place sticking to blocking and tackling. However, when the chips and salsa game, my mind changed. The salsa lacked heat and the chips were too thick and oily. For me, this was a big red flag – and a good leading indicator for a restaurant’s spunk. Salsa, in that way, is like hot and sour soup from a General’s Chicken-style Chinese place. Bad first impression.
I ordered a traditional New Mexican stew, Posole, a stew of pork and hominy. The stew was said to be slow cooked (as one would expect) but the broth tasted less like a distinctive stew, and more like an archetypal burrito sauce. This is a hard line of criticism to take, since of course I have never been to New Mexico and know nothing about what the baseline should be, but the taste did not feel distinctive or typical of any particular cuisine, let alone a regional one. When the arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) came, the same applied. The rice was OK, but the chicken and rice seemed cooked separately and the sauce underneath lacked any sort of distinctive – well, anything. The side salad was iceberg with shredded cheese, the level of TLC you normally get on airplanes (when they serve meals, which is infrequent).
This does not even mention the travel companion’s meal, which was the Red and Green plate, with two red chile cheese enchiladas. The problem is that the enchilada did not seem to have any filling in them, or nothing discernible. Worse still was the Chile Relleno. It was tasty enough the companion reported, and she was about to give it a lukewarm “maybe we ordered wrong” until we discovered there was no Chile inside the batter! The batter was merely hiding a filling shaped like that. The stem was not a pepper stem! Really at $26 for two people I should have made a stink and gotten our money back, but I just wanted to go home.
P.S. I cannot in good consciousness provide a link to the restaurant – but google it and it is not hard to find