Thursday, August 31, 2006

When In Santa Fe

So there I was for my trip this week, and I decide to try out one of the town's better Mexican restaurants, a place called Los Portrillos. I always enjoy eating at locally owned Mexican restaurants, and the food is usually pretty close to genuine, except I'm not exactly sure what "genuine" is. It's pretty subjective. But in general, the closer you get to Mexico, the better the food gets. And I was in New Mexico.

The first immediate clue that this wasn't a typical Mexican place came when I opened the menu. Usually you find the page full of the combo plates. Taco-burrito-enchilada. Burrito-gordita-taco. Taco-taco-tamale. And on and on and on. Not so here. Sure they had some lunch plates, but after the appetizers, the rest of the menu was entrees. A whole column of chiles rellenos, for instance. A column of fajitas and pollo. And at least a dozen fish specialties. It took a while, but a half glass of Sprite later, and I made up my mind. That is, only after the server approached the table and I made a snap decision.

An aside. When you've traveled a while, you eventually get around to trying every menu item for restaurants in each type of cuisine. I've had more bland alfredo sauce than anyone should have to stomach. Did you know that most of the entrees at your TGIChiliRedLobsterbees is prepared in a microwave? If I see an item on a menu with ingredients that I recognize that I've never had before, then what the heck, let's give it a shot.

And so it would be Cabrito. Seemed good on the menu. Marinated, seasoned goat, with beans, picante and guacamole. And since it was in the fajitas column, I figured it would come with tortillas and I would eat it just like tacos. Can't be too bad, right? Just a short while later, out it came. There was a plate with bowls of beans and a sauce/soup that I didn't recognize. A container with piping hot torillas. Then the large plate with a large serving bowl, with the lettuce, tomato and guac on the side. The server pointed out a large soup spoon on the side of the bowl. Inside the bowl was a dark red sauce with blots of melted grease floating around. And in the sauce were large hunks of meat with a bone sticking out here, and some connecting tissue there. And with the opaque sauce, I couldn't tell just exactly how much meat was in there. Even if this was to be the best thing I ever tasted, I couldn't possibly hope to eat it all. And this was going to be some work.

I tried to look like I knew what I was doing as I took the first tortilla out of the container. It was hot. Very hot. How can I load this thing when I can't even hold it? And there wasn't another plate to set it on. How can I cut the meat (I had to steal a knife from another table) when I'm holding a tortilla? I dug around the bowl with a fork until a piece of meat stuck to it. Problem was, there was a bone sticking out of that. I felt like a one armed paper hanger trying to put this thing together. And in the meantime, there was sauce running all over my hand. This was getting messy and fast. I scooped out some beans, trying not to take too much sauce from that pot. And forget about the third bowl. I tasted that stuff and ruled it non-essential. After hurredly scooping some guac on the pile, I rolled up the rapidly weakening tortilla and tried to eat it. Then an analogy struck me. Eating with tortillas is the Mexican equivalent of chopsticks, and I suck at that, too.

The taste? Ever have venison? For those who have, you know there's good venison and bad venison. Same can be said for cabrito. This stuff was tender enough, and the sauce did a decent job of hiding the taste, but it still seemed gamey to me. It also seemed every piece of meat had connecting tissue to deal with, and that's never pretty. And little pieces of bone made for an eventful experience. I managed to eat about three more helpings, and that was that.

All in all, let's call cabrito an "acquired taste". I don't fault the restaurant for anything. The service was satisfactory, and the meal was prepared well. It just wasn't for me. Sometimes a hunch works (khing curry chicken) and sometimes it doesn't. And hey, it helps to break up the monotony of life on the road.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

1 astute observations :

  1. Aesthetic said...

    I felt ill reading that. I've had goat a few times, always has bones in it, little annoying bones.