Why do people go to the Blue Parrot, a little place off East Hampton Main Street that advertises "killer Mexican" food?
Well, it may be for a quick meal before the movie, because one of the generous entrees is quite enough to fill you up, or for margaritas at the bar, or for the great value all-you-can-eat-for-$9.95 buffet on Sundays, or just because you're in the mood for the Blue Parrot's loud, cheerful, funky, no frills atmosphere.
But on Saturday night we sat down to eat a full three-course meal - plus margaritas, of course. The menu offers an almost daunting choice: a dozen appetizers ($4.95 to $7.95), soups and salads, a wide range of quesadillas, hamburgers, burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas, and 15 entrees, ranging from $11.95 for half a roasted chicken to $18.95 for a Southwestern version of chicken and seafood paella.
Even with five people, it was hard to choose a representative sampling, but we did our best. We had to try the guacamole, of course, which was as good as I remembered from previous occasions, with the avocado flavor predominating and not swamped by tomato, onion, and cilantro flavors.
I don't think you can expect to order the mussels, which come in a wine, onion, and garlic broth with just a little hot kick to it, and get ones as big as we were served - the waiter said he'd never seen ones that size. That's the luck of the draw. But you'll still get a fine, flavorful broth.
Texas toothpicks are a big basketful of deep-fried pepper and onion strips, served with salsa. At $4.95 they could have been a main course if you were hungry and impecunious. The Caesar salad was unremarkable but welcome for the cold, crunchy contrast to so many soft, hot, spicy dishes.
Tuna Burger Rules
The winning appetizer, by a whisker, was the scallop ceviche. Marinated in lemon and lime juice, with olives, cumin, green onions, little bits of orange, and cilantro, it makes an exciting dish.
The rather bland flavor of the bay scallops (not our own tiny ones) is really zipped up by the fierce flavors of the marinade. Just as it gets almost too citrusy to bear, there are strips of avocado to relieve your mouth, almost as if you were eating a curry.
There was no doubt about the winning entree, however. By a mile it was the tuna burger, which had seemed a dull choice but turned out to be exceptionally good. The medium-rare tuna is chopped, but not too fine, and served with an excellent marinade and wasabi mayonnaise. At $12.95 it is highly recommended.
Maria's vegetarian enchilada pie came a close second. A kind of Mexican lasagne, it is made with layers of corn tortillas, black beans, zucchini, cheese, and maybe some other vegetable, and covered with a ranchero and cream sauce. One of our diners said she'd had it as take-away and that it's equally good served at room temperature.
The Blue Parrot Mexican sampler gives you a chance to try a tamale, some enchilada pie, and a choice of fajitas.
It's a bizarre fact that corn, or maize, is the only food plant that cannot reproduce itself without the aid of man (to strip off the shuck and plant the kernels). How a wild plant so constituted could have survived is a mystery and, indeed, no trace of wild maize has ever been found.
Really Too Much
But it's here - for which we thank whatever alien being is responsible, because everything that's connected with maize seems to be delicious, whether it's fresh corn 15 minutes from the field or heavy buttery cornbread or, in this case, a tamale wrapped in a little corn husk.
These two last hefty dishes do give rise to a minor criticism. Couldn't the ubiquitous black beans (too salty on this occasion) and rice be left off some of the larger entrees? There was really too much to eat.
We also tried a red corn enchilada stuffed with spinach, garlic, onions, and new potatoes that was very nice, if not as interesting as the other dishes.
Ordered A Dozen
The only dish we struck out on was the carne asada, a flank steak marinated in citrus juices and spices, and then grilled, which was unfortunately as tough as the proverbial viejo zapato.
The only one of us who wasn't drinking margaritas sampled a Chilean chardonnay called Conca d'Oro. He was so enthusiastic about it he went straight out and ordered a dozen bottles, so it must be good.
By the time we got to the desserts, there was not much enthusiasm and less appetite, but the chocolate mousse cake had a really good intense chocolate flavor, the flan had an interesting touch of lemon, and the flan cake was, well, close but no cigar.
The Blue Parrot is friendly and noisy with comforting, good-value Mexican food and a laid-back, casual atmosphere. You won't go away broke, and you certainly won't go away hungry.