Flavor Fiesta

Cielo Mexican Restaurant wows diners with fresh takes on traditional recipes.

By Maria Allen

There’s been a buzz about Cielo Mexican Restaurant ever since the doors opened in October, 2015. The new Braintree eatery prides itself on serving up contemporary Mexican cuisine and I recently had a chance to stop in and taste a few of the house specialties.

The restaurant is prominently located on the corner of Washington and Plain Street in Braintree. The outside of the building is painted the color of terracotta and the inside features a sleek, inviting décor, with black leather booths and pictures of agave plants hanging on the wall.

I decided to dine at the bar, where I perused the cocktail menu that includes 25 different types of tequila and 10 flavorful margaritas, including a sangria-rita. I decided to jump right in by ordering a watermelon margarita and watched as the bartender muddled fresh watermelon cubes in the glass before adding ice and a combination of Gran Centenario Silver tequila, Agavero Tequila Orange Liqueur, fresh lime juice and agave nectar. The drink was deliciously refreshing. Other specialty cocktails include a traditional drink called the Paloma, which contains Don Julio Blanco tequila, a splash of lime and Squirt grapefruit soda (sourced from Mexico).

I decided to take the advice of managing owner Francisco J. Perez and ordered two traditional dishes that I had never tried before. Perez, who operates the restaurant together with his cousins, also owns restaurants in Texas and Georgia. Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Perez immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old and after living in California for a period of time, eventually settled with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. Many of the items found on the menu are inspired by family recipes and represent traditional Jalisco cuisine.

I began with one of the signatures of the house, a dish called chiles en nogada that consisted of a roasted Poblano pepper stuffed with seasoned ground beef and chopped pear (an unlikely and surprisingly delicious combination) that came drizzled in a creamy walnut sauce and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. Served with rice and beans, the dish delivered the perfect combination of sweet and spicy flavor.

The next item I tried was the torta ahogada, a pulled pork sandwich typical to the Jalisco region of Mexico. Pork, beans and ripe avocado were stuffed between thick slices of bread and doused with a generous amount of fresh guajillo-tomato sauce and topped with slivers of pickled onion and fresh oregano. I could tell that the sandwich would be difficult to eat neatly—the name of the dish literally translates to “drowned sandwich,” due to the abundance of sauce poured on top—and I debated using a knife and fork. In the end, the intoxicating aroma of the sandwich won me over and I picked it up with my hands and took a big (albeit messy) bite. In short, the taste was amazing. Pausing between bites to lick the tomato sauce off my fingers, I watched a waiter prepare fresh guacamole tableside for a nearby group of diners.

The menu at Cielo Mexican Restaurant also features dishes like jicama salad and molcajete, a combination of grilled chicken, steak, chorizo, shrimp, whole jalapeno, nopalitos and cheese served inside a hot lava rock with roasted tomato salsa and tortillas on the side. There’s also an extensive lunch menu and for those looking to wrap up their meal with something sweet, the list of postres contains tasty treats like flan and churros.

By the time I was done with my meal it was just about 5 p.m. and there was already a line at the door. Clearly, the word about this gem of a restaurant is out. This month, the restaurant is planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a party in the parking lot out back. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for details.

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