Adventures in Alternative Cuisine
This evening, I decided to try a new Mexican restaurant. The building used to be a Taco Bell restaurant, but it’s now been painted bright yellow, in the common “Mexican palette.” Any place painted such hues must be aimed at the native Mexican population. I just had to check this place out.
I went inside and ordered a water to drink. While most Mexican restaurants serve chips and salsa, this place serves a homemade soup that is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t catch the name of the stuff, and I’m considering ordering just a big bowl of that stuff as my main entree sometime.
It has a wedge of avocado in it, and a hunk of radish. It’s got a good helping of cilantro, which lends its characteristic flavor to the soup. On the side, they give you a wedge of lime to squeeze into it, and a roasted chile pepper that you crack open and dump into the soup. This gives it a bit of heat, so if you’re not a fan of the spicy side, skip the chile. It also gives it flavor, but you can’t separate that from the heat.
The waitress came over and I asked her what she recommended. She pointed out their tortas, which are just big ol’ honkin’ sandwiches. I really had a hard time selecting one.
I finally settled on The Cubana. It has just about every meat known to man in there, and, despite the fact that it had no cheese, I ordered it anyway.
The waitress asked me if I’d like to try a margarita. I’ve become rather disillusioned by restaurant margaritas over the last several years. They always use a mixer that is REALLY sour. This is because the “frozen margarita” has become so popular. To serve a frozen drink, it needs to be much stronger in flavor because of the cold. I, however, prefer a “proper” margarita, served over ice. When you add this overly strong margarita mixer to “just ice,” it is often so acidic that it gives me reflux. No fun.
So, figuring that I’d save some money, I told the waitress, “No thanks. The mixers everyone uses are way too acidic for a margarita.”
“We don’t use a mix here. We blend all the ingredients ourselves.”
Now that piqued my interest. “OK,” I said, “Bring me a margarita.” A few minutes later, the waitress brought a very pretty drink to the table.
It sure looked good. Then I tasted it and I was sure that it was. The alcohol was a bit strong, but I’m the oddball here; I generally like my fruity mixed drinks to taste more fruity than “alcohol-y.” I’d say that your average Joe would have found the alcohol level “just perfect.”
Since I was still working on that fantastic soup, I didn’t really have a lot in my stomach. So, after a few sips of the margarita, I felt it. So, I decided I’d back off and wait for my entree to arrive.
I didn’t succeed completely. I had about a third of it gone by the time my entree arrived.
Right about the time I was extracting the last bit of goodness out of the bowl of soup, the waitress returned with my sandwich. Good lord, they should have brought that thing on a forklift! Maybe they call it “The Cubana” because it’s the size of Cuba!
This sandwich is utterly colossal. It’s almost all meat! There are some veggies in there like onion, lettuce, tomato and some jalapeno peppers.
I picked it up. I actually had a hard time getting my mouth around it. After a couple of test bites, I found the proper angle and sunk my teeth in.
It gave a really satisfying crunch. The bottom layer of meat was pan-fried, so with that and the lettuce, it gave a really good mouth feel. With all those meats, it would have been easy for it to be a mush-fest.
It wasn’t really that spicy at all. In fact, if you omitted the jalapenos, even people who can’t stand spicy picante flavors would be able to handle this sandwich. Providing, of course, that they are able to unhinge their jaw like I did to get this thing into my mouth.
The entire time I was eating it, parts of the sandwich were raining down onto my plate. I didn’t worry. Even with the loss of a lot of the sandwich’s bulk due to gravity, there was still plenty in the sandwich to satisfy any appetite. I actually managed to eat the entire thing. Then, I got to enjoy the “gravity salad” that was on my plate. Yum.
I was about to roll myself out of the place when the waitress returned and asked if I’d like dessert. She told me they had flan. Now, flan is just a special case of vanilla custard, and I love custard. Generally, after a meal of that size, I pass on the dessert. However, for some reason, I ordered the flan.
The presentation was interesting. They had drizzled chocolate sauce over it and put a dollop of whipped cream on top. It really was very pretty, but I’m a custard purist. I would have preferred the flan not have those two additions.
However, even with the chocolate and whipped cream, it was a delightful desert. The texture of the custard was firm, but very smooth. Many times, a restaurant will cook a custard too quickly, and it will develop a grainy texture. Not this time. It was like vanilla-flavored silk on my tongue.
When it was all done, I went to the register and my bill came to $24.57. Considering that I had a full meal that could easily have served two or three, and a margarita, I felt that it was an overall good value.
The authenticity of this place is really good. They don’t serve ground beef. That was an American addition to Mexican cuisine in the states. If you want beef, you get sliced steak. They have carnitas as well as a marinated pork, lamb, chicken and even beef tongue. I will definitely return. I can’t go all the time due to the expense, but it was well worth it.
This ain’t no Taco Bell anymore.