First Taste

Black Chile Mexican Grill Flaunts It All

How many Mexican food restaurants can you fit into one city? Not enough, in our opinion.

Which is why we're welcoming Black Chile Mexican Grill, another multi-unit concept to recently join the Biltmore Fashion Park restaurant repertoire of chains.

The original Black Chile branch is located in Minnesota, and now the owners (and founders of Kona Grill) have set up a Phoenix location just west of Zinburger.

The outdoor patio wraps around the south end--facing Camelback Road--and lines the inner walkway for great people watching: shoppers, Apple geeks, and business lunchers. Inside, the decor features warmer tones with wrought iron chandeliers, almost reminiscent of a lodge.

We were warmly greeted by two hostesses with the bar of 100+ tequilas on display to our left and an exhibition kitchen to our far right. Black Chile isn't afraid to show off what they've got.

So what will Black Chile be flaunting on our plates? Find out after the jump.

We had just sat down when chips and salsa arrived via our smiling and attentive server. He shared with us that the chips are homemade and that we have a choice of tomatillo salsa (green in color and blazing with spice) or a milder red salsa (nice, bright and easy to consume in large amounts). We started with the tomatillo and quickly asked for a side of the not-so-hot red salsa. That tomatillo is packing a punch, which our tongues were only equipped to dabble in.

We tried the grilled corn with aioli and cotija as an appetizer and loved every bit of it. The cotija cheese covered the entire cob of corn and the wood fire grill lent a smokiness that went all too well with the barbecue aioli. Our server recommended shaving the corn of the cob as a polite way to indulge in this sweet treat of golden deliciousness, but we had way more fun eating it directly off the cob.

Since this was our first visit, we had to try the signature dish bearing the restaurant's name. The Black Chile entree with seasoned pork, Serrano peppers, sour cream and Pasille chile sauce was served hot in a mini cast iron skillet with a side of rice and borracho beans. The pork is slow roasted for tenderness, but it was the side of rice that really hit our sweet spot. It was made with peas and corn and reminded us of green tamales--if only it were appropriate to order a pint to take home.

The fish tacos also jumped out at us, and we ordered our with corn tortillas (you get a choice of flour or corn). The fish on this day was red snapper, but the dish itself lacked zip and snap. Luckily it came with a side of beans and more of that amazing rice.

Black Chile has got plenty of appeal and a recipe for success. Not so sure we would call it authentic per se, but it's definitely approachable and worth stopping by for a meal.

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Nicole Whittington