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La Carta de Oaxaca - Am I missing something?

OK, finally ate at Carta de Oaxaca - What is all the hype about. I was not impressed.

I had the Black Mole Tamale - All I could get was sweet, there was no underlying spice or character otherwise. Pretty bland...? Others in the group had Tacos Fritos and Tostadas - pretty normal choices, but they complained too. Overall we expected so much more, the way people go on and on about this place.

I will say that the staff and service was exellent for as busy as it was on a Friday night - that part was good.

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  1. I have to agree with this one. We ate there recently after all the rave reviews, service was excellent, good margaritas, but the food was just ok. We had one of the taco specials and the tostadas. Seemed bland to me. I had just assumed it was an off evening?

      1. re: landguy

        Perhaps we have arrived at yet another subjective impasse about what "pretty bland" or "just ok" food tastes like.

        If you think La Carta's food is "just ok", I wonder what you are comparing it to. Other Oaxacan or Mexican in Seattle? Other Mexican elsewhere? Comparisons across varying ethnic styles and traditions, I think, are inherently problematic. If were to compare La Carta to the only other Oaxacan specialist in town, El Sabor de Oaxaca, I certainly know which one I would sooner deem "just ok". Comparing La Carta to just about any other decent Seattle Mexican spot, generic or regional, I think La Carta shows very well.

        I never hesitate to accuse some Seattle restaurants, especially thai and indian ones, of offering muted, compromised flavors. La Carta, however, is far from bland. If you think La Carta's food is "pretty bland", perhaps you should smuggle in a container of MSG upon your next visit and liberally sprinkle it on.

        1. re: equinoise

          I guess I'm just comparing it to homemade versions I have eaten countless times made in the homes of different friends, one from Guatemala, one from Honduras and one from the Chiapas Highland region of Mexico, and also some other off-shoots (corn husk wrapped) I've tried in the working people's street food sections of Playa del Carmen, Mazatlan and Nuevo Laredo, and those other Tex-Mex versions while growing up in South Texas. I don't throw the Tex-Mex versions into the mix of comparables.

          Anyway, that’s my position, and if La Carta is the end all be all of Mexican food in the area, I guess some of us are just out of luck. Oh well….

          1. re: Papa Kip Chee

            La Carta might be the "end all be all" of Oaxacan food in the area. I do agree La Carta's mole negro can be too sweet sometimes and it definitely isn't spicy at all.

            What the other posters said, try the birria, entomatadas (con salsa verde), the albondigas, the posole, etc. Also if you didn't have anything with fresh tortillas you were missing out.

            Did you miss the assortment of homemade salsas along the bar by the kitchen? They're self-serve and anything but bland.

            If you want more "working people's street food" go down to Burien and check out Taqueria La Estacion. This is my new favorite "Mexican" place in the immediate Seattle area.

            (If you ever get the itch to drive south on I-5 and you want some outstanding Michoacan-style carnitas, check out La Tarasca in Centralia, just past Olympia.)

            1. re: terrier

              Thanks for the rec's. at Carta and elswhere. I will no doubt give the restaurant another try, it's not 'bad', it just didn't meet all the hype - and for ~ $45 for 3 people with drinks, you can't beat it.

        2. re: landguy

          I'm with landguy on this one. Try again and see if you find it.

        3. In my experience, some things are very good--the lamb birria is excellent as are the albondigas Other things are ,merely adequate. I think part of La Carta's initial appeal was that it was really Mexican rather than Tex Mex and had some things on the menu that--at least at that time--were a bit unusual.. I have not had the Mole Negro there yet, but have had it many times in Oaxaca, where it is rather sweet and not terribly spicy.

          1. I've been dining at Carta since it opened .. I've had countless wonderful meals there & yes, a few that weren't quite up to snuff .. that said there are things I always get that are wonderful and the Mole is one of them.. I haven't had the tamale but rather the simpler Mole w/ pork. I'll recommend the Lamb Birria, the posole, the enchiladas, and entomatades .. I haven't been in a few months so maybe there are new things on the menu .. I think that the flavors are more subtle than in either "typical" Mexican food or the taco trucks.

            1. I agree. Went there as a result of all the raves here & was wondering why, too. I found the food just ok or less...and we tried ALOT of their dishes....also the crowded and noisy dining rm was not enjoyable.