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Ninfa's on Navigation [HOU]

j
James Cristinian Aug 10, 2008 07:09 PM

Went to Ninfa's recently, knowing they had changed owners and menus. (Allison Cook in the Houston Chronicle). I ordered carnitas and had them cook them the old way, they will do that with anything on the menu, and was disappointed. Let me backtrack, we started with queso flameado which I had been craving. It had a funky cinammon taste that I did not care for at all. Chips and salsa were ok but the red sauce lacked some oomph. The carnitas, while cooked the same, crispy outside, moist inside, also had a funky seasoning, nutmeg maybe. Two things I've given up on years ago, the tacos a la Ninfa and the Ninfaritas, we did not sample. My family has been going since the days of the old front room, when the tacos were made with ribeye and would melt in your mouth. They now use fajita meat, while seasoned well, the quality and chances for gristle don't suit me, I know I'm being picky here. One of the waiters whom if been using for years confirmed my suspicions that the Ninfaritas, while using the same mix, have far less tequila. While I rarely drink anymore, I would like an occasional buzz instead of a hwadache that they give me. I can understand, however, the reduction in tequila, things have changed for the good since the crazy 70's and early 80's, I literally have seen two waiters carrying patrons out. Anyway, can anyone give me a reason to return, something new. The carnitas in the Chronicle review sound interesting. Bottom line, my wife was eating the leftovers and said that the only thing that hasn't changed is the tortillas.

  1. Cheflambo Aug 12, 2008 02:50 PM

    James, your report on the Ninfaritas alone is enough to keep be from going back. Indeed, the original 'rita kicked a**. I've been eating at Ninfa's (both the orginial on Navigation, and their corporate spinoffs) for over 20 years, and I, too, am sad to see the changes that have come along. Nothing at the original location is the same to me any more, especially since Ninfa herself has been gone.

    I hate to be one of those people who dwells in the past, but honestly, they have never had to turn people away from this place. Why change anything?

    1. danhole Aug 18, 2008 08:40 AM

      James, do you think you would have liked the "new" carnitas recipe better than having it the "old" way? Alison's review was a bit mixed. From what I understand this location was bought out, but the others are still the same. Is that correct? Anyone?

      1 Reply
      1. re: danhole
        j
        James Cristinian Aug 18, 2008 02:53 PM

        I'll probably try the new version but doubt I'll like it better. I used to go to the one on Echo Lane(Memeorial Area) frequently, they had a manager and staff that had been there a long time, and the carnitas were frequently better than Navigation. I'm pretty sure they're owned by the same people, but that location has relocated close by where the old Picos was. I went several times and it was off, the last time tough as shoe leathe. I refused to pay for them(something I never do, they were that bad), paid for my tea, left a nice tip, and left. I have not been back since.

      2. zorra Aug 18, 2008 04:12 PM

        That's such a shame. Somehow I hadn't heard that the one on Navigation had changed hands. My husband and his coworkers go there fairly often, but have been very disappointed with it recently. I doubt they (or I) will go there again.

        1. alkapal Aug 18, 2008 05:14 PM

          did ninfa's do catering in the mid 80's (1986), and use ribeyes for their fajitas then?
          i've been searching for the elusive meat/marinade combination i had at a houston backyard catered affair (fabulous food!)....
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/470522

          8 Replies
          1. re: alkapal
            danhole Aug 22, 2008 07:41 AM

            alkapal,

            I'm sure Ninfa's was catering back then, but I am also sure it wasn't ribeye meat. That would be too fatty for fajitas. Here are a couple interesting links about Ninfa's:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninfa's

            http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-09-2...

            The second article is long, but tells you exactly what type of meat she started out with. I don't think this was what you remembered. And BTW, did you ever get to Houston?

            1. re: danhole
              alkapal Aug 22, 2008 07:48 AM

              not yet....but soon, when it gets cooler, i think. i've never sweated so much as a summer in houston in 1986. and i'm from sw florida!

              dani, thanks for that great houston press article. i learned a lot!

              1. re: alkapal
                danhole Aug 23, 2008 10:48 AM

                Alkapal, after looking at a bunch of history and recipes the meat was likely fajita meat, but the outer skirt is more tender than the inner skirt. The article called it the diaphragm, I believe. Now here is a recipe I found on several sites that is supposed to be Ninfa's recipe. It is even in Robb Walsh's Tex-mex cookbook.

                http://www.cookingjunkies.com/rec-foo...

                Sound more along the lines of what you are looking for.

                We are going to El Tiempo for fajitas today, and I didn't know that it is run by the offspring of Mama Ninfa, so it is still in the Laurenzo family. I know you can get the tenderloin fajitas, but I am going to get the regular ones and ask about the meat. I'll post back tomorrow or Mon.

                1. re: danhole
                  alkapal Aug 24, 2008 04:30 AM

                  that sounds good, but almost like teriyaki (which i love, too!). funny there is no lime juice in the recipe....

                  hope you ate well.

                  1. re: alkapal
                    danhole Sep 11, 2008 10:48 AM

                    Hey alkapal! We finally went to El Tiempo last night for our Anniversary dinner. I had the reg. fajitas and quail combo, and my DH got the tenderloin fajitas. The star of the meal was the quail! so moist and delicious. They had put a sauce on it, almost a BBQ sauce, which was okay, but I would have rather had it without.

                    The tenderloin fajitas were melt in your mouth tasty! My regular ones were very good as well, but not as tender. Even though we enjoyed them, I don't think this matches your previous quest for a certain flavor. I guess you will have to try Ninfa's. I would have asked about the meat, but our waiter didn't speak much english, so we had a bit of a problem. I usually love the guacamole, but this was so awful I refused to even pay for it. I had about 2 bites, and it was bitter. A bad avocado to be sure, but they should know that and not serve it. When you get to Houston you need to let us know so we can meet you at Ninfa's!

                    1. re: danhole
                      alkapal Sep 11, 2008 03:51 PM

                      dani, you got it. your post on this meal sounds quite appetizing! next time, i WILL go with mr. alka to houston! i'd absolutely love to meet up! you stay safe with ike on the way, please!

              2. re: danhole
                j
                James Cristinian Aug 22, 2008 01:30 PM

                In the the dePressed, excuse me, Houston Press article, Robb Walsh states Ninfa's started calling it a fajita meat dish, but did not cite sources as to what the meat was, just stating it was fajita meat. Whether it was fajita meat or not, the quality has certainly declined markedly. I remember being told by a waiter turned manager that was steak. Maybe my memeory deceives as to whether it was ribeye, perhaps a sirloin, but I doubt fajita, it's too tough unless you trim the heck out of it. If I ever return, I have some people I can ask.

                1. re: James Cristinian
                  p
                  picardsvintagelady Sep 17, 2008 10:32 AM

                  El Tiempo catered an event for our family last month and the fajita's were excellent. They were top grade skirt and tender and flavorful, without being mushy. We could have swore we were eating sirloin. Our guest of 140 raved for days afterward.

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