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Cocina 10, the newest creation by local restaurateur Chris Bianco, brings quality food to one of Phoenix’s new music venues.
Located in downtown Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom, Cocina 10 serves Mexican street food at reasonable prices. Orders are taken at the bar in the small, crowded venue, which usually has patrons spilling into the outdoor seating area.
My first visit to Cocina 10 was on a Sunday night. A young woman played the ukulele and crooned love songs, and no admission was charged. Despite the low-key lineup, every table was filled from the bar stools to the private booths. Nearly half the men in the room — about 15 — had beards, including a particularly long one that rested on a 20-something-year-old’s chest.
A friend and I ordered chips and salsa, and I got the Al Pastor burrito, with tender pork, beans, melted cheese and a pineapple dressing. When we got our order, we searched for open seats, eventually asking to share a table that was already occupied by a couple.
The chips, which were small and cheap — less gourmet than anything else the Biancos make — came with red and green dipping sauces. The red sauce was a salsa, but less chunky than most. It had an almost creamy texture and had a stronger tomato taste than most salsas. The green sauce was a slight mystery. My friend said it included tomatillo, and I think I detected some avocado. It was sweeter than I expected. My friend also ordered a white rice pudding, which I mistook for another dip rather than a standalone dessert. Even that, despite the mix-up, was a tasty side order. It was cool, sweet and refreshing and tasted like thick ice cream. The only downside was that I ate my friend’s dessert, cluelessly dipping my chips into it throughout the dinner.
The Al Pastor burrito’s greatest strength was the tortilla, which was thick and darkened by the perfect amount of time in an oven. The rest of the burrito’s flavors were mostly hidden by an excess of beans, which overpowered the taste of pork, tomato, cheese and pineapple and made the texture mushy and plain. The burrito’s ingredients were of a perceptibly high quality, which is always the case with Bianco restaurants, and this may have been the best burrito I have eaten downtown. But I left slightly disappointed, since it did not live up to the delectable pizza at Pizzeria Bianco or the simple but delicious sandwiches at Pane Bianco. This burrito was good but not great.
I’ll probably be back at Cocina 10 again, but I don’t expect to become a regular. The atmosphere and performances at the Crescent Ballroom are a huge attraction, but the food is not, and only select shows are open to customers under 21, so bringing a group of friends might not work out.
Cocina 10 fits neatly into Phoenix’s Mexican food ecosystem, with higher quality and prices than Vitamin T, and less of both than the Barrio Cafe. It’s sure to have regular customers who are in tune with the local music scene, but for food connoisseurs who are familiar with the Biancos’ other options, this will be a letdown.
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