Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adriana's (and my view of Mexican Restaurants in Victoria)

No. 78

<2010-08-17 Tue>

Adriana's is no longer open. As much as I like Mexican food, I never ate there and I was looking forward to my visit. Part of the reason is the location. Adriana's was in the periphery of downtown, out of the typical areas that I tend to frequent, and didn't open every day of the week for lunch. The few times I have tried, it was closed.

Verdict: Defunct

I will take the opportunity to write about Mexican food in Victoria.

First of all, Mexico is a very large country. To put into context, Mexico has an area (1,972,550 km2) twice the size of British Columbia (925,186 km2), and closer to the size of British Columbia, Alberta (642,317 km2) and Saskatchewan (591,670 km2) together. But perhaps more important, it is more sparsely populated. While the population of Canada is concentrated in few areas (notably along the border with the US), the population of Mexico spans all over its territory. Mexico includes most types of territory, including glaciers, deserts, rain forests, and has cities that dwarf Canadian ones. Like Canada, it spans from the Pacific to the Atlantic. There are dozens of native languages still spoken in Mexico, remarkably Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs--1.6 million people) and Mayan (.89 million). Mexico City is a city as cosmopolitan as any of the big metropolis in the world.

In conclusion, the food in Mexico is a kaleidoscope of cooking styles, ingredients, and influences, and every region of this rich and vast country has its own unique cuisine.

With few exceptions, restaurants outside Mexico do not make justice to its food. And I can't blame them. The typical person does not know much about the real Mexico, and instead, is looking for his or her perception of what Mexican food is. A Mexican restaurant has a difficult decision to make: do we offer authentic Mexican food? or do we offer food that our patrons will consider authentic?

So here is a list of Mexican Restaurants, and what I think about them. First the ones I have visited, although some of them not in a very long time. They are in no particular order:

- Cafe Mexico. It offers the Mexican experience as expected by many Canadians and Americans, and while their menu includes some typical Mexican dishes, they are below average. I stopped going there the day that I was given corn tortillas warmed in the microwave (they become cardboard in few minutes).

- Hernande'z. Hernandez is run by a Salvadorian (Jerson) and his wife (Tamara). They are lovely people. This place gets brownie points because they make their own tortillas (I have ask them if they sell them individually, and the answer is not) and they are absolutely the best in town. I am not surprised they have stopped selling tacos to go (you can't have a taco 1/2 hr later, it would have disintegrated by then). Their salsa is also very good. I tend to order the Huarache (they call it "La", which is wrong. It is "El"), which is a central Mexico staple, but their interpretation is a bit "healthier", although it lacks some of the flavours (the Mexican ones are usually slightly passed by lard). Very good prices, and highly recommended.

- Puerto Vallarta Amigos (what I call the taco truck). In less than 1 month, it is gathering a following. Run by a family who lived in Puerto Vallart and Acapulco, they make tacos in the style of the central part of the Pacific coast. They have some misnomers in the menu (their barbacoa is not authentic barbacoa, and their chorizo is made of soy). Nonetheless, they deliver at a hard-to-beat price. I love their tomatillo, avocado and cilantro salsa. It has become a gathering point for Mexicans. As authentic as it gets in Victoria. Like Hernande'z, very good prices and highly recommended.

- Rebar. Yes, Rebar. When I enter the Rebar, I feel like I am in a Mexico City restaurant. The decor, the Virgen of Guadalupe in a niche, the plastic table cloths, they all look like they belong there. There is clearly an influence of Mexico in the creation of the restaurant. Order the enchiladas de calabacitas plus a apple and pear juice (not in the menu) and it is as Mexican as it can be. I recommend it.

- Orale. It feels more like a cafeteria than a restaurant, and a bad one. The tacos feel overpriced, and made with no love. Their tacos al pastor as a misnomer (tacos al pastor are cooked on a pit, the way shawarmas are). Their tamales are small. I will review this place soon. Based on my previous experiences, it is overpriced for what they offer, and I do not recommend it.

- Santiagos. It has Mexican influence, but does not feel Mexican. I wasn't very impressed in my visit.

The other places in Victoria, that I have never visited (but will soon) are:

- La Fiesta Cafe (cafeteria style)
- Delicado's (cafeteria style)

In conclusion, we do ok in tacos, but we lack a good Mexican restaurant.

For more information on Adriana, including its address, visit:
Adriana's Cocina Mexicana on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. As a Mexican newcomer to Victoria, this information is great, thanks!

    I had the same impression at Rebar: it has a Mexican feel, and the menu definitely has Mexican influences too. Looking forward to trying Puerto Vallarta Amigos...