Munchies With Max: Yo Mama Iguana's
By Max Gilbert '13
My Labor Day was spent in meetings and hectically preparing for the beginning of classes. As dinnertime rolled around I decided that I would celebrate the summer’s final breath with a delicious meal. With no real dining destination in mind, a friend and I drove to Northampton.

Walking around enjoying the beautiful evening, we saw an authentic-looking Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating called Mama Iguana’s. As soon as we sat down, we were brought a basket of hot, crunchy salty tortilla chips. They were crispy but not greasy, and clearly freshly made — always a good sign at a Mexican restaurant. The salsa was also very good, with a good amount of spice, not for the faint of heart.

The menu has a nice combination of classic Mexican dishes, some Tex-Mex favorites and some specialties. Several of the dish descriptions boasted “chef’s favorite!” or, “a must try!” Figuring this made a reviewer’s job easy, we picked four plates and decided to share everything that we had ordered.

We started off our meal with the “tableside” guacamole. Unfortunately, we were sitting outside, where the tableside service is not offered. Any disappointment about this, however, vanished when the big stone bowl of green, fresh guacamole was set in front of us. There was a strong taste of fresh lime in the guac, which I happen to always enjoy. Other highlights included plump, juicy chunks of tomato and fresh cilantro leaves. It was delicious, and I will definitely make sure to go back to see it prepared in front of me.

The next course was a soup called “Sopa de Elote.” It was called the chef’s favorite, and I understand why. The soup was bursting with the taste of sweet roasted corn, and it was blended with cream and topped with grated cheese. A must-try.

For our main course we ordered the “mole special” and “tacos camarones.” The mole was a mole verde that evening, which was described as intensely spicy and flavorful. Diners have the choice of pulled chicken, pulled pork or roasted vegetables, and we chose half pulled chicken and half roasted vegetables. The chicken was moist and tender with an excellent texture, and the roasted vegetables were flavorful and cooked perfectly. The mole sauce itself, however, lacked a certain “x-factor.” Don’t get me wrong, it was flavorful and overall a good dish, but the description of it on the menu made me expect something that would wow my taste buds.

The tacos camarones were also very good. Three soft flour tortillas were topped with grilled shrimp, a red cabbage slaw and tequila lime vinaigrette. The fresh tomato salsa that accompanied the tacos as well as the red cabbage slaw was fresh, flavorful and added an interesting textural element of crunch to the tacos. The shrimp themselves, while cooked perfectly (nothing bothers me more than overcooked shrimp) were also slightly lacking in flavor. They were described on the menu as being “zesty marinated grilled shrimp,” and while I certainly picked up on the grill flavor, they lacked the promised zest.

Overall, I would give the meal a solid thumbs up. The guacamole and the soup were spectacular and made me want to try more of the small dishes, appetizers, soups and salads. The entrees were certainly very good, but lacked the element of bold intensity I usually look for in traditional Mexican cuisine. Restaurant goers with a more mild palate might disagree, so I would strongly encourage giving this place a try.

P.S. Herrell’s homemade ice cream — burnt brown sugar and butter flavor. Just sweet enough, with subtle molasses and maple undertones, the perfect end to a meal.

Issue 02, Submitted 2010-09-15 01:57:26