Having lived in London myself for a brief stint on a study abroad program in college, I understand the dearth of decent Mexican available there. Shocking, really, given the amazing collage of cultures and foods - it's where I had my first Thai & Indian meals, sparking a love affair with curry that has only gotten more intense with the years. So, dutifully, we escorted the big sister out for a night of guacamole, tequilas and perfectly made tortillas.
We decided to skip the big meals - although they all looked very good (must come back to try those veal tongue meatballs). Instead we went with a bunch of appetizers, each one excellent in it's own right and reminiscent of dishes I'd had in Mexico. Guacamole made table side started us off, mashed in an authentic molcajete, with your choice of additions including minced onions, jalapeños, habeneros, and cotija cheese. Spot on, and the hot chips right out of the fryer were perfect - we had to ask for more to nibble on after the guac was gone.
Along with the guacamole, we had chicharrones - a wonderful Mexican version of pork rinds that are puffy and light with not a hint of grease, served with a spicy salsa verde for dipping. We'd had a different version of chicharrones in Peru that were actually fried bits of pork, but these were excellent in their own right and a nice little surprise. Sopa azteca was a tasty soup served with fried tortilla strips, chunks of avocado and cheese, all floating in a deep flavored broth that was poured into bowl at the table to keep the tortillas crunchy. Well played.
The mackerel ceviche was served on big crunchy tostadas, mixed with a tangy pico de gallo. Not quite as good as ceviche I've had at places like Amada or Tinto, but for $11 I was happy. This brings us to the queso fundido - one the most amazing bits of Mexican cooking that I've come across. The dish couldn't be simpler, melted chihuahua cheese served in a hot skillet with fresh tortillas. You scoop some cheese into your tortilla and add in the accompanying mushrooms, peppers, or pickled red onions and then slowly savor this gooey little delight from the gods.
The only disappointment was the cazuela de chorizo y papas (chorizo served with kale and potatoes). The dish was a bit bland, and not nearly enough chorizo or spice. Kale & potatoes don't lend much to the party, but do give it some backbone. I'd skip this next time back.
Prices are affordable for a decent meal with drinks (appetizers average $10 and entrées are between $15 and $20), and I'm looking forward to exploring more of the menu. They've also got a sturdy tequila menu that I'll be sampling on my next visit - not a school night.
Xochitl is located at 408 S. Second Street on Headhouse Sq. They are open for dinner from 5pm-12am 7 days a week, with the bar staying open till 2am. All major credit cards are accepted.