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Restaurant review: Amigos brings the party to Westerly's Canal Street

By Tim Cotter

Publication: The Day

Published November 28. 2013 4:00AM

The Westerly dining scene is so dynamic and eclectic, it's never a bad question to ask, "What's new?"

One answer is Amigos, a Mexican restaurant that has taken over the Canal Street space last occupied by Dylan's, which had become a tired reminder of the past.

The interior has been overhauled, with wood floors and exposed brick and a new bar area, although the rebuild doesn't have the same visual impact as those at Twisted Vine, Brazen Hen and Malted Barley, which are all recent answers to that same question.

But we're here for the food and drink, so let's get started.

First up, of course: margaritas. Amigos, as can be expected of Mexican restaurants today, has a dizzying number of tequilas and margarita options. I went with the basic Handcrafted Margarita, which features Patrón Silver, Citronge orange liqueur and fresh lime. Our guest, Marc, chose the High Class Margarita, which had Gran Centenario, Grand Marnier and fresh lime.

The fresh lime is a nice touch so you don't get that often-awful sour mix taste. The Grand Marnier did a nice job of balancing the citrus and the next time I would go High Class. Both were $10.

Amigos also has an impressive selection of Mexican beers. In fact, I couldn't think of one that they don't have. We would later try Negra Modelo and Pacifico on draught, both served with a lime and both $4.50. (Somewhere on tap or in the cooler, though, you'd think they'd have room for a beer from one of the two local breweries.)

While we enjoyed our margaritas, we snacked on chips and a flight of three homemade salsas ($8). They were nicely presented from mild to spicy: mango pico de gallo, tomatillo cactus salsa and fiery habanero salsa. The first, loaded with bits of mango, was my favorite. We also added lump crab and chipolte guacamole ($10), an interesting combination of spicy and fishy.

The chips, made on the premises and brought out in a tin bucket, were good and plentiful.

One of the stars of the night was an order of Mango Habanero Buffalo Wings ($9). The wings were messy, in a good way, and I found the spice level to be perfect - enough torque to make your lips quiver a bit but not so much that you're desperately looking for refills on the water. The wings were cooked perfectly, with the meat falling off the bone. Marc, who once had owned a wings joint and still makes his own dry rub, gave them an A+. They were served with an avocado gorgonzola sauce, which helped cut the heat but didn't add much flavor.

Fish tacos are a familiar sight on many menus these days, and my wife, Betty, often orders them. Amigos' version is battered cod with guava coleslaw and chipolte aioli on corn tortillas ($15). The fish, in the size of potato puffs, was hard to find in what turned out to be a messy mix. She didn't think the fish was as good as that used by Manana Cafe in Groton or The Bridge in Westerly in their fish tacos.

I ordered the mole poblano chicken because that's one of my favorite sauces. At Amigos, the mole is black, which is more bitter than the red, which provides a nicer balance between the spiciness of the peppers and the sweetness of the chocolate. Just the same, the boneless chicken breast was tasty, as was the Mexican rice.

While Amigos serves up the expected fajitas, tacos, enchiladas and burritos, it has one of the more creative menus you'll find at a Mexican restaurant. There's shrimp stuffed with chorizo, salmon wrapped in a banana leaf, and a whole red snapper, battered and fried, all for $22, to name just a few.

Marc opted for one of the more creative offerings: a mild chili pepper stuffed with lobster and oaxaca cheese ($18). This dish often features meat, so the lobster was a nice nod to coastal New England. The kitchen crew should take a bow for this entree, which is served with creamy risotto and an oregano tomato coulis.

I don't usually think about dessert at a Mexican restaurant, but our server assured us that they were made inhouse and were delicious, so we ordered chocolate chip bread pudding, coconut layer cake and tres leches cake, all $7.

The coconut layer cake was a tad dry, the bread pudding was excellent, while the tres leches - a light, airy sponge cake soaked with milk and cream- was out of this world.

Wendy Carr, who also owns Prime Time Cafe in Pawcatuck, is behind this new restaurant, but the real stars are chefs Oscar Yanez and Sandro Pezqueda, who have brought their recipes and cooking skills from their home country.

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Amigos

2 Canal St., Westerly
(401) 315-5800
www.amigosri.com

Cuisine: Mexican, with both expected and unexpected offerings, all of it authentic.

Atmosphere: Mexican decor with lights hanging from the ceiling and a raucous bar lend a party feeling. A taco bar was not open the night we were there but looks like fun.

Service: Our waitress expertly answered our many questions about menu items.

Prices: Appetizers in the $7-$12 range; entrees run from $14 for enchiladas and $15 for fajitas to $22 for baked stuff shrimp or salmon.

Hours: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday; lunch starts at 11 a.m., with dinner served till 10 a.m.; also, late-night taco-burrito menu in the bar till closing

Credit cards: Yes

Handicapped access: Yes

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