London: Visit to Taqueria
We visited Taqueria yesterday. We're both Mexican, and when we walked past it it looked like a reasonably sensible/authentic place, so we thought we'd give it a try and sample some of their tacos.
The verdict - not a bad place to have Mexican food, especially given that this is, after all, the UK (not exactly a place where there's knowledge about what Mexican food is about). I doubt there are similar places elsewhere in London.
The sopes were quite good (though we found the green salsa in them lacking some oomph, but then again that's probably what the market wants). The masa of the sopes was nice.
The tinga tacos were nice, if a tad too soupy (so the tortillas get mushy real fast).
The carnitas tacos were my favorite. Pretty good, even for a Mexican.
Pastor tacos merely adequate at best (then again, not even in the US did I ever find pastor that truly approximated what tacos al pastor in Mexico are really like).
Arroz with plaintains - a bit bland.
The sopa de tortilla was excellent, and a good deal at 3.50. (Some of the tacos were pricey at 5.50 for two small tacos)
Of course, tortillas are a weak point. But there's no way around that in the UK I gather.
Sadly, tortas were not available yday (I think they are only available on weekends).
Overall, not a bad experience. And probably a good entry point to Mexican food for Londoners.
Price: reasonable by London standards (of course, unreasonable by US standards, and needless to say insanely expensive by Mexican standards... but we've been too long here to care about comparing to cost of living in Mx or the US even). We had quite a bit of food for 30-35 pounds.
You're right - Mexican food doesn't really appear on our radar.
There are a couple of places in our nearby city (Manchester) which make claims to offer it. Are you able to give some quick pointers about what to look for on, say, an online menu that would indicate the place was worth trying or one we should leave alone? I really have no starting point here.
Well, let me note that, though I prefer actual Mexican food to Americanized versions of Mexican food (say, Tex-Mex or California's take on Mexican food), I also quite enjoy the occasional burrito, fajitas, chili-con-carne, etc.
Mexican food is a bit tricky, as it's a heavily regionalized cuisine, maybe even more so that in, say, Italy (I personally find the cuisine of states like Puebla, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Yucatan, the most appealing).
If you go to a mid-range and above restaurant that claims to be Mexican, in all likelihood you should expect at least some of the following: sopa de tortilla (tortilla soup), bean soup (frijol), epazote (a type of herb) might appear in a variety of dishes, mole that doesn't come from a jar (mole can be red, yellow, green, black, and even white!), huitlacoche (corn smut), flor de calabaza (zuchini blossoms), ceviche, chiles en nogada, chiles rellenos, etc.
If you go to an inexpensive Mexican restaurant that actually serves Mexican food, you should find things like: tacos al pastor (pork marinated in a red/adobo-like sauce), tacos de bistec, carnitas (pork), chilaquiles, enchiladas, quesadillas (not only with cheese, but with all sorts of things such as chorizo, mushrooms, etc), molletes, tortas (a Mexican sandwich of sorts, stuffed with anything from pork to chicken escalope to chile relleno), huevos rancheros (fried eggs on top of a lightly fried tortilla and swimming in green or red sauce), barbacoa (goat), tamales. (Of course, some of these items may also figure in a mid/high-end Mexican restaurant, usually with some sort of twist).
Taqueria in London is, not surprisingly, a place where tacos feature prominently. As I said, some of them are OK. And probably more than OK given that this is London and there are no other Mexican places (that I know of. Well, I've heard of Wahaca, but we haven't been there).
In Mexico, a taqueria is usually a very inexpensive, unassuming, hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Think of something analogous to a kebab place like Patogh or Bosphorous.
If you post links for the Mexican places you allude to, I'd be happy to take a look at their menus.
re: D Hound
I've been to a few wonderful, rather upscale Mexican restaurants at resorts in the States... La Quinta and the Princess in Scottsdale. What a difference from the tacos and quesadillas I was used to in NY. As you pointed out, there is such a wide range when it comes to 'Mexican' cuisine.
re: D Hound
Thanks for that. Probably not worth posting links - from what you've said, they seem places designed for Brits who've been to Florida and eaten at a Taco Bell.
However the City Life Guide descibes one as "For a light lunch or hot takeaway, this is as good as it gets in Manchester" - which may be either a depressing commentary on Manchester or on the City Life Guide. Here's the link - http://www.barburrito.co.uk/
That looks like what you might find in the US, i.e. America's take on Mexican food. In Mexico, perhaps to the surprise of some, burritos are close to non-existent and when available it's only because tourists expect them.
Having said this, I've had some mean burritos in CA, AZ and NC. So nothing wrong with that - just not actual Mexican food.
re: D Hound
With regards to burritos.... while they are very hard to find in most places around Mexico... they are not only non-existent but in certain Northern states like Sinaloa, Chihuahua & Nuevo Leon they are THE quintessential snack / street food. Of course, a proper Mex-Mex burrito is quite different (and in my humble opinion) vastly superior to the Cal-Mex burrito, differences being:
> Size (Mex burritos use a 6 to 8 inch tortilla and are wrapped a little more stingy).... often you are served 2 or 3 along with a side dish (Cactus Salad or Beans etc.,).
> Fillings.... instead of the layers of meat, rice, beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole etc., that you get in the Cal-Mex version... Mex-Mex versions are usually stuffed with lefter braised meats or sauteed vegetables... sometimes beans... they have a much cleaner, more coherent & adult like flavor
> Quality.... a Mex-Mex burrito is almost always made with hand made, insanely tasty wheat flour tortillas and not some factory product with preservatives in plastic wrap. Also... since you don't have the baroque combinations of tasty but shallow / pedistrian ingredients rounding each other out... the Mex-Mex burrito focusing on just a few ingredients places a much higher focus on ingredient quality.
thanks for the report. btw, we liked the carnitas best too.
and another tip: theres a brand new iranian a couple of doors down from al waha on westbourne grove. i'm pretty excited by it as it has a few items i havent seen on alounaks/mohsens menu. if you beat me there, pls report!
We just returned from a dismal meal at Wahaca. I think Taqueria is far superior. Tortillas seemed stale, salsas and sangrita from a can, and generally it had none of the precision of flavor and freshness that I expect in Mexican food. My pork stew was a river of grease (not the good kind) and my corn tortillas were swimming in oil. Very upsetting.
Have yet to try Red and Green, despite walking past it two times a day.