I was happy when I heard about this Mexican restaurant opening up in town. There always seems to be an abundance of all other cuisines in this state, except for Mexican fare. I tried Riviera Maya for the first time in early April and thought that it was pretty good...and since then I have returned one more time, on Cinco de Mayo. I was a bit turned off the first time we entered and were awkwardly ignored by the guy who appeared to be the host at the host desk, but luckily this was not a recurrence. Upon first glance I wasn't sure if I was feeling the interior décor of Riviera Maya, but after some careful reconsideration I changed my mind. Initially I was comparing the inside to that of Don Jose's in East Hanover, which has beautifully carved and colorfully painted tables and chairs. I then told myself that this isn't THAT place, and if Riviera's looked the same and had all Mexican restaurants been a duplicate of Don Jose's then every place would look cliché. I like the ambiance at Riviera Maya's, DOWNSTAIRS. It is simple, but nevertheless colorful and fun. Rows of intricately patterned doilies line the ceiling, rotating from one bright color to the next...I admire looking at the many different cut-out pictures in them. However, when we came back for the second visit we were sat in the upstairs dining room which lacks ANY personality. I was shocked to find that no effort whatsoever was put into the upper half. It is a completely blank canvas, which I liken to a typical party room or office conference room. Had one been blindfolded and led inside and upstairs they would never know that they were even in a Mexican restaurant. The only thing that I found positive about this room was that the owner was smart enough to install a second bar there, which would make delivering drinks to patrons much more efficient. And the fact that they even have a liquor license is a big plus, since I have encountered many Mexican restaurants that do not. The mariachi bands present (in the main dining room) set the mood and sounded great, and to my surprise were even there on a weeknight. The fresh salsa was very enjoyable. It was heavy on the onions which was unique, and had a nice "kick" to it which I like. The first time I wished that it had a stronger tomato flavor, but the second time it did. The chips were lame though since they were completely void of salt, which I always consider to be a very poor choice. Even a little salt goes a long way when it comes to tortilla chips. I was very disappointed that jalapeno poppers were not an option on the appetizer list. I think that would definitely be a popular hit and I do hope they decide to add them. The beers were a bargain at $4...it doesn't get much better than that! Both times I ordered the cheese enchiladas which were so incredibly cheesy, and whatever kind was used was absolutely DELISH! The type was not listed on the menu so perhaps next time I will inquire. I wish that instead of giving rice as one of the sides that they would incorporate jambalaya into their menu. In my opinion most restaurant rice is a bore. But then again this is Mexican fare, and not the Creole that I enjoy at Jose Tejas in Fairfield...I just have to keep reminding myself this since I lust for their jambalaya. Although I initially thought that the portions appeared a bit small here, it turned out being the perfect amount in the end. I have received more at other places but the problem really lies in the fact that we Americans are waaaay too used to eating ourselves into obesity! I too am guilty of overindulging much too often! I did have a good time on both visits despite the fact that my food was not exactly hot the second time around (on Cinco de Mayo)...but the festiveness of the evening with the passing out of free sombreros, beads, and t-shirts definitely made me smile and look forward to my return.
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