September 9, 2005
flavors all around
With the thermometer reading nearly 100 degrees, Mexican and margaritas seemed like the perfect antidote.
We settled into a darkened room full of plantation shutters and spot lit two-dimensional metal wall “sculptures” of kokopellis, cowboys, beaming suns and scurrying lizards at Kokopelli Mexican Cantina, 5200 W. 95th St., Prairie Village, KS. At almost a year old, it’s the only Mexican restaurant in the immediate vicinity.
“We thought the neighborhood could use a good Mexican restaurant,” said owner Kevin Lyman, who owned Habanero’s in Lee’s Summit for five years.
Our waiter arrived with crispy, warm chips and a sauce that tasted mostly of tomato. We ordered several margaritas: from Larry’s frozen strawberry ($6) to Lee Ann’s frozen mango ($6), Mark’s traditional on the rocks ($4.75) and my frozen traditional ($4.75). They seemed a bit pricey until we realized they came in huge glasses versus more traditional glassware. Good flavor all around.
The hot pepper jack cheese was creamy and spicy, and spinach bits were plentiful in Lee Ann and Larry’s Santa Fe Dip ($5.75), served in a crispy fried tortilla bowl. Mark and I ordered Homemade Guacamole ($3.95). The huge serving of fresh, bright green dip arrived in a tortilla bowl and packed a mild heat.
We were so busy catching up that we almost forgot to order entrees until our waiter gently reminded us. Unobtrusive, yet pleasant and proficient, described our service during two visits.
Larry ordered a Rio Grande Burrito ($8.75) — a four-inch-by-eight-inch behemoth full of beans, ground beef, shredded pork and cheese, topped with chili con queso and scallions. A single bite was rich and satisfying.
Lee Ann ordered Santa Cruz ($10.95), two enchiladas with a plump, grilled shrimp in every bite, bathed in white wine sauce and traditional enchilada sauce. Melted Monterey Jack and spicy, ultra-fresh pico de gallo topped it all. Fluffy, moist rice and savory black beans that came in their own small bowl and juice completed the plate.
Mark tried Shrimp with Steak fajitas ($12.95). His “cold plate” presented generous dollops of guacamole and sour cream, a small bowl of coarsely grated cheese and foil-wrapped tortillas. The “hot plate” of melt-in-your-mouth, fork-tender steak strips, perfectly seasoned grilled shrimp, sautéed onion and green and red pepper strips, and pico de gallo sizzled loudly as steam shot towards the ceiling.
I tried the Taco Del Rey ($9.95), which featured grilled shrimp with crunchy shredded green and red cabbage and coarsely ground Monterey Jack wrapped in two flour tortillas. Toppers included pico de gallo and Monterey Jack with black beans and rice.
I shared a late lunch at Kokopelli with my daughter Stephanie and her friend Kalissa one steamy afternoon. Kalissa chose a chicken flauta and a beef enchilada as her lunch special ($6.95). The rice was her favorite item. Although the flauta shell was crisp and light, the chicken and ground beef both tasted bland.
Steph ordered the Chimichanga with guacamole and sour cream ($9.25). Once again, the ground beef flavor was unremarkable. But the six-inch-by-three-inch chimichanga derived mellow goodness from the sauce and melted cheese that smothered it.
I picked the Tucumcari ($7.50), two crab meat enchiladas covered with a white wine sauce and black olives, and paprika sprinkles. No significant heat to this dish or hint of wine on the tongue but plenty of crab flavor and a mellow creamy quality that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Dessert looked too good to pass up at both meals, so we all boxed half of our entrees. Lee Ann and Larry ordered Mexican Fried Ice Cream ($3.25) while Mark and I shared a Chocolate Chimichanga ($3.25).
The chimichanga enfolded melted chocolate in its crunchy, fried shell. A huge scoop of ice cream, four dollops of whipped cream, endless squiggles of dark chocolate syrup and a maraschino cherry garnish put me in chocoholic heaven.
The fried ice cream featured an equally large scoop of ice cream encased in a cinnamon-dusted fried crust. It all nestled beautifully in yet another tortilla bowl and swam in a little pool of gooey caramel sauce.
Steph, Kalissa and I shared the Sopapilla ($3). Six, three-inch, cinnamon sugar coated triangles of airy pastry surrounded a small bowl of warm honey. It was a sweet end to a very pleasant meal.
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