The most disappointing starters had to be the pozole, which was doubly crushing considering how highly I used to sing this hearty soup's praises. The tomatillo-based broth was so sour I had a difficult time wondering how it even gained approval to leave the kitchen. In the entire bowl of pozole, I counted no more than 10 pieces of hominy, further suggesting that whoever was wielding the ladle was having an off day. Although I couldn't stand to slurp at the broth for long, I did navigate the cabbage and radish garnish to seek out every tender chunk of well-seasoned pork to wrap in a little tortilla blanket.

The street tacos redeemed the pozole's poor showing. Double-lined corn tortillas held generous, well-seasoned chunks of carne asada, red chile pulled pork, batter-fried fish, and grilled shrimp. The tacos were served with a fresh and simple side of greens accented by roasted bits of corn, tomato slices, and a honeyed vinaigrette that hampered the lightness of an otherwise refreshing salad.

Entrées made the strongest showing on Mucho Gusto's menu. The gaucho steak was a tender, marinated skirt steak in a chimichurri sauce that had a surprising kick and a robust garlic flavor. The barra vieja shrimp were also well worth the price, and the dish is one particular instance in which sweetness of the dish worked to elevate the entire flavor of the meal. A dozen shrimp were coated in a velvety, dark sauce made with chiles and Coca-Cola that was reminiscent of the complex, rich flavor of a mole. The smothered pulled pork and cheese enchiladas were also a solid choice, but they suffered just a bit from the same tomato-based red sauce as the flautas.

Jackie MErcandetti

Location Info

Map

Mucho Gusto Taqueria & Mexican Bistro

603 W. University Drive
Tempe, AZ 85281

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Tempe

Details

Mucho Gusto Mexican Bistro
603 West University Drive, Tempe
480-921-1850< /> Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Guacamole: $7
Flautas: $8
Barra vieja shrimp: $16
Gaucho steak: $18

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The sides were a disservice to the entrées: bland, forgettable sides of steamed summer squash, Spanish-style rice, and refried beans. Why waste plate space with flavorless squash when you could substitute calabacitas? Or refried black beans in lieu of the standard pinto paste? It seemed like a missed opportunity for a place that's trying to set itself apart as a destination for bistro-style Mexican.

Whatever you do, I recommend steering clear of the banderillas unless Atkins demands it of you. I tried the chicken banderillas, which were described as marinated chicken skewers served on pico de gallo slaw. Instead, I was left with two bland, under-seasoned chicken skewers that were so dry I needed a hefty swig of margarita and a slice of juicy pineapple just to choke them down.

There's something to be said for catering to your audience, as demonstrated by Mucho Gusto's impressive run in a Tempe neighborhood overrun by eateries — many of which come and go with the semesters. But tried and true can easily slip into boring and uninspired, if you're not careful.

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9 comments
Laptop bags
Laptop bags

When Mucho Gusto opened in 2005, it filled a Tempe dining gap with its modern, slightly upscale take on standard Mexican fare. Its success was due to the creativity of Chad Withycombe and Carlos Manriquez, the same duo

Azfooddudes
Azfooddudes

Hello if you enjoyed this review come take a look at our new review site on facebook. AZFoodDudes. We've just started up and would love your support so take a look and give us a like. We review new restaurants every monday.

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Erniegomez
Erniegomez

Never been and after reading now I never will Tempe resident.

Talmerian
Talmerian

That's Chad Withycombe III! When was this place anything but over priced Macayos?

local
local

I'm afraid you got one thing wrong, the service still consistently sucks.

aln
aln

My boyfriend and I ordered take out from Mucho Gusto once. When he ordered the "Big Ass Burrito" the guy taking his ordered replied, "O.K, what do you want in your ass?"

...Just saying.

Guest
Guest

Mucho was never that great to start and has gone rapidly downhill since Carlos left. I'd even venture to say Atlas went downhill after Carlos left. Atlas was innovative when it first opened and became ho hum after a while. I'd say Carlos is the key. Don't know him personally but I'd guess he is creative but hard to work with, so he starts good places and gets bought out.

 
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