First Bite: Dorado

In the battle of the Brookline taqueria, it seems, it’s all about survival of the fittest. I remember when the little known Taqueria Mexico came to the neighborhood, holding court in a small storefront directly across from Anna’s Beacon Street location. After sampling the decidedly lackluster fare, we guessed they wouldn’t last long. Sadly, we weren’t too far off. T Rex Taqueria in Brookline Village was the latest victim; as a Washington Square-area denizen, I can’t say I’d ever gone out of my way to try it, and apparently, not many others did, either.

But the giants may have a contender in counter-service newcomer Dorado, which opened near the Harvard Street Anna’s satellite in late July. Helmed by Café D vet Chris Organ, who brought his famed fish tacos along with him, the small, color-splashed space has style and plenty of spice.

There’s actually three iterations of Organ’s signature menu item here, all of which feature flaky Atlantic whitefish (beer-battered in two), but which boast differing veggies and various spiced cremas. They’re quite good—we tried the Ensenada, with piquant pickled onion, and the Dorado, with radish—but as with all the tacos on offer, the two organic white corn tortillas wrapped around each act as little more than a dry, bland cradle to the interesting fillings. We ended up dropping one on each to let the ingredients shine.

Where Dorado really has Anna’s and Boca Grande beat is in the quality and overall taste of its meat. Cemitas, or Mexican sandwiches stuffed with avocado, Oaxaca cheese, black beans, and other goodies, are a must-try. The sirloin steak version, featuring perfectly charred, tender beef packed onto an eggy sesame seed bun, tastes like summer on a plate; we only wished there was more to devour. The moist yet firm grilled swordfish used in one taco gets a balancing jolt from tangy tomatillo and avocado salsa. And a surprising menu item, the nine spice-citrus marinated rotisserie chicken (also available for takeout, Boston Market-style, with sides of rice, beans, tortillas, and salsa) is crispy outside, juicy inside, and tastes faintly of earthy cinnamon.

You won’t find burritos or enchiladas here, and though the nine taco varieties are inspired (portobello, chorizo, chipotle-marinated-and-beer-battered shrimp) they’re also expectedly small—think three to four per person, plus a few sides, like the excellent grilled corn with mayo, ancho chile, and cotija (delicious and a bit lighter than Ken Oringer’s version), or the spicy blend of pickled jicama, carrots, and jalapenos. But this place’s more-upscale atmosphere and creative south-of-the-border flavor gives a leg up on the local competition. When the long-awaited second outpost of Cambridge favorite Olecito parks itself in T Rex’s old spot, we’ll have to see where the chips finally fall.

401 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-2100,