Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Mexican Connection - Restaurant Reviews

When I went home to Texas  last summer I made sure to pack a special item in my carry-on for the return flight, a kilogram's worth of H-E-B's finest corn tortillas. The airport security guy had a puzzled look as he reviewed my x-rayed luggage and politely asked to open my bag. This is the point where I started to feel like a total weirdo for packing so many tortillas but I needed them! Then after unzipping, the big reveal "Ooh, its just tortillas!" he said, chuckling. I tried to tell him that they don't sell these where I'm headed but I don't think this helped my crazy tortilla woman case. It was hilarious all around. Now, almost a year later, the stash has run out. The time had come to further explore the Mexican cuisine scene in Bucharest. There are not a lot of Mex restaurants in town but here are three I've been to:
Just like home! Interior of La Bonita Restaurant Lipscani plus a shot of their guacamole nachos.

La Tortilla  12-25 RON (Around $8 USD)
Truth is I walked into this restaurant and walked right back out a year ago. Silly me, I was too new to the Bucharest (ok, Romania) and very quick to judge one of the few Mexican restaurants in town. This weekend after seeing their new location open in the heart of Lipscani I decided to give it a try. La Tortilla is a fast food restaurant that delivers the kind of calorie laden meals you love to hate eat. Tacos, quesadillas, burritos -yum. Just don't expect authentic, this place is as authentic as Taco Bell . But hey, I don't mind Taco Bell  :) Favorite part of my visit? When the guy at the cash register 'educated' Catalin that the crunchy taco shells were 'chips' not tacos! Second favorite part --- biting into the Tacos de Vita...mmm not bad after not having any kind of crunchy taco for a while. Advice:  Tacos Chili con Carne are too spicy, I'd skip them. Also don't bother getting the menu/combo meal -fries have no place with your tacos de vita.

La Bonita 25-55 RON (Around $15 USD)
Well what do you know, the  Lipscani district is also home to a Tex-Mex restaurant- a pretty good one at that. I visited on a lazy Sunday afternoon with Cata when I happened to be feeling extra homesick. We were both impressed with the menu options: fajitas, nachos, tacos, guacamole, quesadillas and enchiladas made from corn tortillas. When the food came we were even happier. Cata devoured a plate of beef enchiladas while I happily munched on guacamole covered nachos. Their salsa tastes more like marinara sauce but that is standard around these parts. This is an excellent lunch or dinner option just remember it turns into a club/bar at night.

El Torito  100 RON ( Around $30 USD)
Though not located near the center of town, El Torito is the first Mexican restaurant I visited. It is also the most expensive which would not have been a big deal if the food was worth the price. Unfortunately I don't think it is worth what they charge. The menu is full of items I recognize: empanadas, flautas, enchiladas, margaritas, etc. I thought I'd surely found a winner. Verdict: The food looks good and tastes...ok but something about the seasoning just wasn't right. To me it didn't have the flavors of Mexican food, just the looks. With La Bonita being closer to home, half the price and providing better flavor I don't see myself returning to El Torito. Still this place does have a lot on the menu so I wouldn't discourage someone from going and trying it for themselves. The atmosphere is nice too -- Spanish music, a terrace, Mexican decor everywhere you look. I hear they even have mariachi's.

Anyone been to a place not on this list or have a favorite foreign cuisine in town? I'd love to try more.


My story:

Girl meets boy.
Love strikes.
Boy moves to Romania,
girl (now engaged) follows suit.

I'll be living abroad for the first time in my life beginning January 11th 2011. Follow this blog if you want to see my adventures.