If you like authentic Mexican food that is fresh and tasty, this place should do it for you. The food was really good!
However, I have a few gripes:
- They don’t take reservations. Ever. And if all the people in your party aren’t there, they won’t seat you. So, if there’s someone in your group who’s always late, this is not the place to bring them. There’s really no room to wait inside, so you’ll be waiting out on the sidewalk. Dress appropriately.
- If you’re not lucky enough to get a table sized for your group, you may be sharing a long table with others. On this night, there were three groups seated at a long table – a couple with a baby in a stroller along the end of the table, the three of us (with an empty spot) in the middle, and another group of three (one seated at the end of the table). It actually turned out that 2 of us knew someone in the other group of 3 at our table. It amazes me how small Calgary truly is.
- Many of the seats are simply stools. Sounds fine, right? But not when you have a big winter jacket, a scarf, and a $350 purse… where the heck do I put it all? I scrunched up my winter jacket so it wasn’t dragging on the ground, piled it on top of my stool along with my scarf, and sat lopsided on a lumpy seat all dinner. I had to put my bloody expensive purse on the floor. Totally NOT COOL. We were crammed in there so tight I even had to haul all my belongings over to the side of the room to get dressed and ready to leave at the end of the night.
- Placing an order here is similar to placing an order at a busy sushi restaurant. There is ONE paper menu for your group and you write on it how many of which menu items you’d like. They cross things off as they’re delivered. The nice thing about this is that the menu stays on your table and you can read about what it is that you were just served (in case you forgot).
- There are no separate bills for individuals (actually, I don’t think we asked – it was pretty apparent it wasn’t really an option). The total bill comes and you need to figure out how much each of you owe. It’s OK if everyone eats/drinks the same amount, but if not, you’ll need to do some math.
- It’s quite small and therefore busy, squishy and loud. We felt like we were yelling all evening, and it was the shortest dinner out the three of us have had in a long time (likely because we were all uncomfortable and tired of asking each other to repeat what we just said).
Okay, onto the food. I had read some reviews that said the food was bland. I certainly didn’t think so. Not everything was spicy but there sure were a lot of flavours to enjoy. To start we ordered the Chips and Guacamole for $13. The guacamole wasn’t any more delicious than what I can make at home, but it was fresh and exactly as it should be. The chips were really good and were homemade. Decent bang for the buck. A good appy for 4 people (there were 3 of us and there was definitely enough).
The Chilaquiles were great – tortilla chips with hot salsa roja, crema, quest fresco and cilantro. For $10 this was a great deal. The portion size was large for the price and they were absolutely delicious. Every chip had topping on it, and it was full of fresh flavour. It’s not a dish you can take your time eating though – the salsa roja and crema made the chips soggy after a while. Dig in and enjoy! I would get this again for sure.
The Ceviche Tostada sounded delicious – prawns, clams, octopus, pumpkin seeds and lime – and it was! But it was small… for $15 I realize we were paying for all that seafood, but yikes. We expected it to be bigger. The three of us split it and it was almost funny how little we each got. It really was a great dish, I just think it’s overpriced.
We tried all of the tacos: Lengua (beef tongue), Carnitas (confit pork), Chorizo con Papas (chorizo & potatoes), Pollo (braised chicken), Frijoles (refried beans), Hongos (mushrooms).
Lengua (beef tongue): I was scared of this one at first. Tongue? But, the texture was great – it was a dense, but tender meat. Better than expected. It was my 2nd favourite.
Carnitas (confit pork): A typical shredded pork, meaty and flavourful, but salty. Good texture but I found some gristle in mine. One of my least favourite because of the salt.
Chorizo con Papas (chorizo & potatoes): I found this one the most flavourful. A bit spicier than the others, but also a bit juicier. My favourite of them all.
Pollo (braised chicken): The most boring of them all, I found this one just didn’t have enough flavour. At the bottom of my list.
Frijoles (refried beans): Super good. Don’t be afraid to try this one just because you’re a meat eater. The flavour and texture were awesome – way better than the refried beans you can buy in a can. The crema and queso fresca make these a creamy delight.
Hongos (mushrooms): As other reviews have mentioned, this one is a surprising delight. The texture of the mushrooms makes it a bit chewy, but there are some complex flavours in this taco. It’s definitely mushroomy… not my favourite, but it’s very good.
For dessert we went for the $5 homemade donut. It was light and fluffy but dense and chewy all at the same time. I’m really not sure how that’s possible. It was good – not too sweet. Was it worth $5? I don’t think so. It was a donut. But, given that we were really full by then, it was a nice way to end the meal rather than with a big dessert.
In summary, will I go back? Yes, but I would try to get there early to get a decent table. Maybe I won’t even bring a purse just in case I have to sit on a stool again. I’d like to try the family style ‘make your own’ tacos that are grilled over charcoal. Oh, and if you have to use the washroom, do check out the charcoal grill as you walk by. They raise it and lower it with a twist of a lever – it’s kind of cool.