Cocina Lolo, Wilmington - quite disappointing

As a big fan of La Fia, I had high hopes for Brian Sikora’s second restaurant in Wilmington, which has now been open for a number of months. Unfortunately, having eaten dinner there tonight, I found the execution pretty lacking at this place, in terms of food, service, and even the space itself. It’s a pretty lackluster room, kind of gloomy, with no vibe or energy even on a Saturday night (despite being nearly full). In fact, it’s hard to even see the restaurant from the outside–there is just a tiny sign above the place, and no sign or markings on the door that would even signal that it’s the entrance to the restaurant.

When I first looked at the menu online, I was simultaneously intrigued by the food descriptions and put off by the prices–if I want tacos, I can get great ones for $2 apiece at Famous Rivera Grill in Hockessin, whereas Cocina Lolo’s come on plates that cost $12-13. However, at least they sounded interesting…kind of. But somehow, when I got to the restaurant, they didn’t sound that interesting after all; many of the other Mexican dishes like enchiladas, quesadillas, etc. were basically standard fare dressed up with perhaps one mildly interesting ingredient, like pepitas. I decided to go elsewhere on the menu, and ordered the crab ceviche and a beet salad. The crab ceviche was supposed to include coconut milk and lime; I tasted neither. The dish was basically a pile of lump crabmeat and a couple of strips of fried plantain, for $14. The tiny (yet $10) beet salad with a mess of limp frisee came drowned in gloppy, overpowering mole sauce; two half-dollar-sized coins of fried goat cheese didn’t help much. My dining companion and I also split an order of guacamole, which came with wildly over-seasoned, over-salted chips (reminiscent of Old Bay) and a very plain, totally under-seasoned bowl of what should have been salsa fresca but was more like pureed tomatoes and little else. A single ice-cream-scoop of guacamole felt like a slap in the face for $10. Finally, we attempted dessert, splitting the grilled pineapple with orange curd, mango puree, sponge cake, and pineapple sorbet–this arrived as a mess of ingredients simply dumped into a drinking glass. I normally love grilled pineapple, when it is actually grilled, which this one wasn’t–it was barely warmed, with no caramelization. The sorbet was icy and had little pineapple flavor, and a spoonful each of orange curd and mango puree might have been a nice touch if they’d been more generously applied or if the dish had actually been composed so that you could get some of each flavor in each bite, which was impossible given the plating (glassing?).

Service was efficient but our waitress was oddly irritable and brusque. I was not amused by her sniping at us for “all talking at once” when we had questions about the menu. Some training in hospitality is needed, especially when one is paying $13 for a tiny serving of carnitas tacos.

In short, I see no reason to return. I didn’t see any food on this menu that I couldn’t make at home or buy elsewhere for half the price and twice the flavor. The location on a fairly desolate stretch of King St. is unappealing, and the interior decor does little to improve one’s mood. If this place is going to succeed, it needs a lot more attention from the owner.

Wow. That sounds horrible esp from the guy behind La Fia and Talula’s. When I heard of the concept I had my doubts. There’s only so much one can do to dress up Mexican food and make it worth a premium price.

Yes, he really needs to get in the kitchen here and crack the whip on the cooks–a dramatic improvement in food execution is the only hope. As for the service, I think our server’s attitude was probably a one-off, but she needs training in professionalism.

So you took one for the team, TM! Thanks – I’ve been curious about this place, but now you’ve saved me a trip.

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Has anyone been to Merchant Bar (the third in Sikora’s Wilmington empire)? I was all ready to go there for lunch two Fridays ago after the Free at Noon concert at the Queen, but then discovered that they’re not open for lunch!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold