Salsa Asheville - May 2008
This was the culinary high point of our trip. I'd heard a lot about Hector and Salsa on these boards, as well as in local publications and other online communities. I was hesitant to try it, largely because of the disappointment I've experienced at other much-hyped restaurants. But I am so glad we did.
Initial impression was too crowded and maybe a little pricey for "Mexican" food. The bright artwork on the walls reflecting the similar colors of the tablecloths gave it a festive look that was inviting. Then we saw the food being served and just had to stay. We were squeezed into a table between two other groups and had a very bizarre conversation with one. Luckily the food came quickly and we didn't have to talk to them long.
Habenero Margarita - Damn! This made my tongue dance! And seriously, the sign in the window promoting this tasty concoction is part of what drew us in. The tart/sweet nature of a well-made margarita was an excellent balance to the spiciness of the pepper. And I cannot figure out how they got the real essence on the habenero without any seeds or pulp of the pepper itself. If anyone has a recipe, please share!
Pork Empanada - Slow cooked pork was so tender and juicy. Wrapped in a crispy tortilla, it was a pleasure to devour. The touch of fresh mint added brightness to the richness of the meat. We both said we could eat this every day.
Pork Fajita - What can I say? I'd heard so much about the pork we couldn't get anything else. The pork might have been the exact same meat as the empanada, but it was rolled in a tasty soft tortilla with fresh avocado, smoky cheese and more that gave it a completely different taste. And it was soooo good.
The service was very prompt and friendly. Even when the odd table next to us stiffed our server, she was gracious and professional to us (She didn't tell us she was stiffed. We were so close we could hear the customers arguing, see the bill and how much they left). And the portions were huge. The beans and rice served with each dish were really good, but I couldn't finish. My companion finished his, but couldn't eat the rest of mine. That is very unusual. Overall, great food and great value.
We will always recommend this place and will make it a regular stop on our trips to Asheville.
Mojo - thanks for the report, I'm so happy you had a great meal
Carolinadawg - Ditto...Salsa is genius and I'm always just staggered to read people who don't like it...some rather venonmous, in fact. I know I'm supposed to celebrate the diversity of opinions, but I always wonder if Salsa-haters have been involved in some tragic tastebud accident ;-)
Second that. Salsa was also a highlight of our trip a couple years ago. I would guess with the 'rita that they steep the chiles in the tequila--wouldn't take many to deliver a serious kick.
I think they either infuse the habernos in a simple syrup or just use some ground haberno powder.