Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A tale of two restaurants

“Buenos dias, La Asuncion,” said the woman who answered the phone. I asked her what time the restaurant closes. Silence. I heard a bang and then two people rapidly talking in Spanish. In the background was the joyful bounce of conjunto music. “Buenos dias, La Ascuncion,” said a male voice. “What time does your restaurant close?” I queried again. “No hablo ingles. Nadie aqui hablo ingles,” he said. So I dusted off my college Spanish and said, ‘Vale, a que hora esta la restaurante cerrada?” He didn’t understand me, I reckon, because he just hung up the phone without saying a word. An excellent beginning, I thought. This Mexican restaurant is the real deal!

La Asuncion is a Mexican restaurant on Fort Hamilton Parkway marooned in a neighborhood that is predominantly Hasidic. Something told me it could be The One. And after a Mexican meal on Friday at the fancy-pants Crema, that had some highs:(the smooth, bacony refried black beans, the habanero salsa that could moonlight as a chili pepper bisque, and the beef tenderloin taco appetizer with its flavorful acquiescent chunks of meat),and some lows: (the much-touted chocolate cake that had an annoying, sandy crunch, the flavorless guacamole, the undercooked zucchini and the Styrofoam tortilla chips), all at Manhattan prices ($12 for a teaspoon of guac? $8 for chips and salsa? You’ve got to be kidding)—I was ready for some good cheap Mex.

When I entered the restaurant, I was the only gringa, and yes, nobody spoke English. And the dishes being served were beautiful, heaps of cilantro and limes decorated each bountiful plate. I ordered the enchiladas suizas con pollo and salsa verde. But when it arrived, it was remarkably bare compared to the other diners’ plates. Three rolled tortillas smothered in melted cheese with little sauce, a mountain of yellow rice and soupy pinto beans. Where were the garnishes of cilantro, onions and limes? Sigh. And while the chicken in the tortillas was nicely spiced, the enchiladas were terribly dry. The rice was delicious, but the beans had no flavor. It wasn’t the meal of my dreams; I was heartbroken. Crema may be convenient, but I’m not spending $21 for two tacos, beans, chips and salsa. So my search for tasty and affordable Mexican food continues.

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Backyard Chef said...

Hey there! Cool site-- I'm jealous of your Alabama road trip...I love that white sauce! Did you make it out to BBQ-NYC this past weekend? It was a celebration of TX bbq this year-- plenty of sausage from Elgin and a brisket I think even a Texan could love....

Homesick Texan said...

Thanks, Backyard Chef. I was amazed at how yummy white sauce was on everything, not just chicken.

I'm sorry I missed BBQ-NYC--would have loved to have some Elgin sausage.

Tuba Slim said...

As schmancy Mexican goes, Zocolo on the Upper East Side is pretty bueno. We ate there last week, and they had an absolutely killer pork gordita appetizer. Unfortunately, the sticker price was a killer, too. I do miss my cheap Chicago Tex-Mex sometimes.

Homesick Texan said...

I've never been to Zocolo--is this the place in Grand Central Station? If so, I have a friend from Arizona who says its good. And killer pork plus gordita sounds might fine.

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