Although I have not yet had a chance to visit Mexico, the Mexican kitchen is one of my favorites. Whenever I travel to the US, I try one Mexican restaurant at least. True, as is the case of Chinese restaurants in Israel, in the US too, not all Mexican eateries are in fact authentic, and indeed, the Americans have invented the Tex-Mex. Still, with the different types of salsas and special stews, the colorful peppers and the variety of spiciness levels, the corn, the crispy nachos, the fresh vegetables and the paper thin tortillas – that can be either fried or baked – you just got to love the Mexican cooking. Oh, and the tequila. Not the cheap supermarket stuff that is usually slammed with sprite, but the high quality tequila, produced from the agave plant: it is great inside a cocktail or on its own.
Israel did witness a tortilla trend a few years back, but for some reason the Mexican kitchen never did prosper in the local scene. You can probably count on the fingers of 2 hands the number of Mexican restaurants in Israel, and you only need one hand for the authentic ones. But one of the most familiar ones is Mexicana in Tel Aviv.
Mexicana, which is about to celebrate a 10 year birthday, offers a wide variety of dishes that represent the original Mexican kitchen, as well as Tex-Mex. The restaurant's colorful style is very noticeable: sombreros and empty tequila bottles decorate the walls, placemats color the tables and nice Mexican music colors the air.
It was almost lunch time, when my almost gluten (and other processed foods) intolerant friend and I stepped into Mexicana. We started with a Mexico City Margarita that was frozen, sour and wonderful, with the right dosage of tequila and a classic Mexican beverage made of Hibiscus and honey.
To be able to taste as much as possible, we ordered the tasting menu for 2, and while we were waiting, we nibbled on some shrimps in cream-chipotle sauce, which was ok, although I do believe the lettuce bed it was served on was not the best choice. 5 minutes later, the waiter arrived, carrying a tray with 10 plates: Barbacoa (slow cooked beef stew), classic chili con carne, and chicken in mole sauce made of cocoa, raisins and about 40 more ingredients. The tray also included 3 types of salsa: pico de gallo (tomato), guacamole and blanca (sour cream). And to complete it all: rice with spice herbs and lime, frijoles (black beans puree), cheddar cheese and 2 types of tortillas made of regular or corn flour.
The waiter gave us some guidance and recommended some of his own favorite combinations, and we started rolling and assembling: spoonful of guacamole, salsa and cream, some frijoles and rice, barbacoa in corn tortilla and then the rest of the stuff. The barbacoa and chili con carne were great and tasteful; the chicken was perhaps a little salty but worked out very well with the mole sauce which was a little sweet and very interesting.
The salsas and the rest of the sauces were very good, even my problematic friend nodded his head with enthusiasm. Whenever the waiter noticed an empty plate he immediately refilled it. We finished with a flan that had a great texture, and was not too sweet. So – a tasting meal is a wonderful way to experience Mexicana, control the amount of food you eat and enjoy a wide variety of menu items.
BTW – if you want to have your own Mexican party at home, Mexicana now offers catering services, and sells product by importer/manufacturer Tres Pesos's, to make your own Mexican meal at home. Buen Provecho!