Casa Jimenez (former El Taco Zamorano Taqueria) - - my beloved carnitas are back in Oakland!!
- Eugene Park May 15, 2012 09:47 AM
I was on Hwy 880 in Oakland at lunch time yesterday, and had a hankering for carnitas. Not just any version of roast pork, but IMO the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-time) version at El Taco Zamorano Taqueria at the corner of High Street & International. Alas, ETZT had been shuttered a couple years ago, which I memorialized in a few CH threads:
I took the familiar High St. exit off of 880 and made my way towards International. My intention was to stop by Casa Jimenez and check out their menu, on the off chance they might have some of the kitchen personnel from ETZT (or were able to replicate their recipes). I parked in the large parking lot, which they share with the Los Mexicanos Market, and walked into Casa Jimenez.
The interior (and exterior) is fairly similar to the prior ETZT incarnation, though I noticed a couple of large benches were in the space where ETZT had their takeaway area. I didn't investigate it further, as I headed to the right and the sitdown area. Grabbed a menu, and hoped that there was carnitas listed somewhere. Found the listing, which I didn't recall exactly (Carnitas something something) as I was focused more on the description. It made mention of "with sauces" and my heart sank. I asked the female server standing nearby if they had some type of roasted carnitas, and she said the listing I was looking at was definitely roasted, and the sauces were served on the side. Hooray!! I ordered it on the spot from her, asked for corn tortillas and also ordered a glass of Stella Artois when I noticed they had it on draft (didn't notice any of the other taps, except for a Samuel Adams).
So I took a seat at a table and waited with cautious excitement for my order. Was served a basket of chips (not housemade), some pico de gallo (on the mushy, liquidy side....OK nonetheless) and salsa (roja....fine) along with my Stella (in a proper Stella challice!). Then my carnitas plate shows up (see attachment). Bingo!! Looked almost exactly like what ETZT offered. I took a cautious bite of the carnitas, and was instantly reminded of how long it'd been since I had these. Crispy on the outside, moist (for the most part, as some of the thinner, outer edges were crispy the whole way through) on the inside. CJ's version is slightly less salty, but pretty much commensurate with ETZT's version flavor-wise. The corn tortillas were exactly like I remembered and treasured (although I would ask them to be given slightly more char next time). I can't say with any certainty if the tortillas were freshly made, but they tasted so.
After happily wolfing down nearly the entire spread (couldn't finish all the rice or chips), the bill was presented to me. $10.95 for the carnitas plate. $2.99 for the cerveza. With tax and a 20% tip, I was signing the credit card slip for a total of $18. I'll be back, and soon!!
Have you been to the El Taco Zamorano restaurant on Foothill at 41st, or the taco truck on International by Santo Coyote? Are these related to your El Taco Zamorano Taqueria?
I had carnitas at the restaurant last month and thought they were pretty good. They looked similar to the ones in your pic, perhaps not quite as seared all over, though that was clearly the intent.
fyi. the los mexicanos market, casa jiminez taco truck, and casa jimininez eatery are under common ownership(story on the truck, i believe)
wasn't impressed with the truck. maybe the eatery has it together now.
I just electrocuted myself a little by crying so hard onto my keyboard. Thanks for the virtual droolfest, and the addition to my Oakland list for next trip.