One of the constant questions I get on my blog is, “Where is the best Mexican restaurant in…?” Most of my readers are hankering for Tex-Mex or Chipotle, so I follow the trend of Tex-Mex for my readers. When I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, there was only one Mexican restaurant and avocados were not easy to find. I recall once going to that restaurant with my restaurant group, only to find that they had no avocados. That night was epic in many ways as due to road works and Dhaka traffic, it took 90 minutes to travel one mile. So to arrive hungry at 9 p.m. to find that the place had no guacamole, was a let down. We ended up setting up our private Mexican restaurant at a different restaurant. In Dhaka, I also recall buying avocados for party and paying $50 for them, only to find that they were rock hard and no amount of time in a paper bag with bananas, or even boiling, made them edible. When I live in Bogota, I went to the Mexican restaurants as they opened up, and in Lima, I also followed the trend.
To get ahead of the question for Rome, I have googled the question. I have a friend who has great faith in the collective opinions of Google reviewers, on the assumption that if 300 people have reviewed a restaurant, then their collective rating is probably reliable. So here are the top ten (okay, eleven) Mexican restaurants in Rome.
Amigos Mexican Grill, 5 stars
Sabor Latino, 5 stars
Il Calavera Fiesta, 4.8 stars
Mr Tabu Tacos e Burritos, 4.8 stars
Coney Island Street Food Roma, 4.8 stars
Casa Sanchez, 4.7 stars
El Jalapeno, 4.7 stars
Quiero Tacos, 4.6 stars
Pico’s Taqueria, 4.5 stars
Gustamundo, 4.5 stars
Maybu – Margaritas y Burritos, 4.5 stars
When I’m in Rome, I’ll check some of these places out… maybe. I will have lots of other things to try, so maybe not.
In the eight years that I’ve been writing this blog, one of the prevailing questions I receive is, “Where is the best Mexican/burrito/taco place in town?” To quote the Princess Bride, I will not get involved in a land war in Asia by discussing the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex and will leave that for others to parry. Instead, unless you can go to Mexico, let’s sally forth to my roundup of “Mexican” in Lima.
Los Meros Meros, Tacos Mexicanos, Jirón Peña Rivera # 179-A, Surco: This place feels like a hole-in-the-wall because it sort of is. The male owner speaks with a Mexican accent so for those who take this as an indicator of authenticity, there’s that. The photo montage at the top is from here.
Frida, Calle Gral Mendiburu 793, Miraflores: Elegant and large, this is a proper sit down place over in the west end of Miraflores near La Mar. People love the Baja California shrimp taco.
El Mexicano, Calle Manuel Bonilla 248, Miraflores: Located down an off-street from Parque Kennedy (with a new location about to open on Benavides out in Surco), this restaurant is well geared to tourists with its English speaking waitstaff and all you can eat and drink options (on the menu, they ask you not to go out and throw up…)
The Burrito Bar, Av. Almte. Miguel Grau 113, Barranco: It’s in Barranco and quite popular with those who miss burritos from the U.S.
Chinga Tu Taco, Av. Mariscal La Mar 1300, Miraflores (plus other locations): A casual offering from the owner of Frida.
And for those who miss Chipotle… you could always try Picogallo. I’m told it’s the closest to Chipotle that you will find here.
But, frankly, these days, most places in Lima seem to offer tacos, nachos, burritos, or wraps. But probably not what you miss from your hometown.
Just a thought: As this week is Easter Week or “Semana Santa” (holy week) in Peru, we’ll see what is open…
*** Updated January 29, 2020 *** I get a lot of questions about the “must eat” restaurants in Lima. Lima is a gastronomic tourist’s South American destination. So here is the list, from the fanciest (as in they are listed on the list of 50 best restaurants list) to some that I recommend, including breakfast places. Or you can go according to this list from Eater. All these places (even La Grimanesa–see photo above) are not hole-in-the-wall places, and some are downright white tablecloth fancy-pantsy. Michelin has not bestowed any stars here yet (Michelin only recently moved into Asia and North America — Michelin was a company just trying to get their customers to wear out their tires by going for drives…).
3: Maido (it’s Japanese-Peruvian), Ca. San Martín 399, Miraflores
4-7: La Mar, Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores, is a cevicheria which is part of Gaston Acurio’s empire, as are: Astrid y Gaston, Madam Tusan, Panchita, Tanta, Papachos, Los Bachiche (Italian-Peruvian and no longer part of his empire-sold to an Italian) and his newest place, La Bodega.
8: Cosme (best secret), Tudela Y Varela 160-162, San Isidro
9: Malabar, Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro
10: El Mercado (also a Rafael Osterling restaurant), Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores: get the shrimp mini burger. It’s the most unusual dish here…
11: Osaka (Japanese), Av. Pardo y Aliaga 660, San Isidro: I wish they would turn up the lights but the single best bite of food that I had in 2016 — was here.
12: amaZ (Amazonian food), Av. La Paz 1079, Miraflores
13: El Seniorio de Sulco (on the malecon with a view of the ocean), Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores
14: La Isolina, Av San Martin 101, (serves heritage Peruvian dishes): as it’s in Barranco, go during a summer lunch time. From the son of the lady who started La Red.
15: La Grimanesa (the only slightly hole-in-the-wall place), Ca. Ignacio Merino 466, Miraflores (practically across the street from La Mar). These are the award winning beef hearts on skewers. If you are going to do it, do it here.
16: Chez Wong (known for cooking in his home). Ca. Enrique León García 114, Santa Catalina
17: El Pan de la Chola (go for breakfast or for a light dinner), Av. La Mar 918, Miraflores. His newest location in Calle Miguel Dasso serves completely different breads etc. Jonathan Day, opened a pizzeria on Avenida La Mar in June 2018 just down the street from his flagship location.
32: El Rocoto: named after the famous large picante red chili from Arequipa.
33: Maria Almenara (for breakfast) or lunch, or dinner.
34: Blu (gelato), in Barranco
35: Paseo Colon, Av. Pardo y Aliaga 697. Like a TGIF or Friendly’s of Peruvian food.
36: Aji555, Av San Luis 2879, San Borja (delicious and Thai — really!!!), started in the ‘hood but moved to San Borja (and the prices reflect this).
37: Cafe Mozart (Italian and Euro flavor)
38: Spizza (in San Isidro). Great Italian style pizza. The best.
39: Taller Razeto, in La Punta.
40: La Mora (also for those who like a good northern European style meal or schnitzel) is a chain with reliable food and more cozy European cafe feel.
41: Las Vecinas, in Barranco, just down the small street by La Isolina. A cafe which is pet-friendly and eco-friendly. And they serve eggs for breakfast, and all the way till 2 pm!
42: Don Cucho’s, in Pachacamac. It’s way out by itself, an adventure to find, and sprawling. ****closed**** but, apparently the employees opened their own place somewhere nearby.
43: Tzu Chifa, Larcomar Mall, Miraflores. It’s elegant, got great views of the ocean, and the food it Chinese.
44: Jian Xing, in the old Chinatown or “Barrio Chino” downtown. A restaurant with the same name is on the new Chinatown (Aviacion). This place in downtown is not fancy like at Tzu but it’s economical.
45: Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 447, San Isidro. Authentic Korean barbecue.
46: Tambo Rural, Kilometer marker 52, Panamerican highway, south. Fresh bread out of the oven, stuffed with olives and cheese. Plus coffee so local that you might not understand the accent.
47: Juicy Lucy, Av Mariscal La Mar 1328, Miraflores . Go for the name alone. It’s burgers.
48: El Batan, Km. 198.5, Carretera Panamericana Sur, Chincha Alta. The MOST delicious lomo saltado to date. It’s located at a gas station in the middle of a town.
49. Amorelado, ice cream shop across from La Mar. Just because you will need something to do while you wait for your table at La Mar… try the lucuma. Then you can tick that off the list.
50. 500 Degrees, on Av. Camino Real. They have breakfast from 7-12. Then lunch. It’s a sunken patio. The juice is good, the salads are good.
51. La Ciccolina, Cusco. It’s upstairs from a courtyard. One of Gaston Acurio’s kingdom.
52. Fiesta Gourmet. The original place. Now they also have La Picanteria.
53. Amoramar, Garcia y Garcia 175, Barranco. For the love of seafood. The large restaurant is hidden behind a wall on one of the residential streets of “the other part” of Barranco as in the non-touristy part. The food and drinks are good. It’s a bit pricey, and some dishes are slightly off (too salty, etc.) but overall, it’s worth recommending.
55. Bao, José Domingo Choquehuanca 411, Miraflores (go west from La Mar and turn on Jose’s street). Not completely authentic but, who cares? It’s got hipster vibe. Also in Calle Manuel Bonilla off of Parque Kennedy.
56. Jeronimo, Av Mariscal La Mar 1209. Apparently one of the top places to eat. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Completely international class food. The beef short rib was great if you are a meat lover. The grilled artichokes were a delightful surprise (scrapping the flesh off the leaves with fingers slick with garlic butter…) Also, the Poke (“poke-A”) bowl is passable for those who miss Poke.
57. La Cucharita. Also tapas, across from Jeronimo.
58. Morelia, Calle Atahualpa 196, Miraflores. Home made pasta, nice salads, and crispy flatbread pizza.
59. Mantra, Avenida Alfredo Benavides, 1761, Miraflores. Third best place to eat Indian. (Massala is not on the list.)
60. Puku Puku, Narciso de la Colina 297. Premier cafe with biodegradable straws.
61. La Linterna: The location in San Isidro is a family place where many of the local families walk over. The pizza is flat Peruvian style and the food is much like I imagine a Peruvian Italian grandma would serve.
62. Rasson. Calle Gral Mendiburu 1007, Miraflores. The name is the reverse of the last name of the siblings who opened this place. They also own La Panka. Rasson has lots of space. Comfy food. I liked their warm choclo with cheese, their grilled mushrooms, the anticucho of chicken breast was juicy (and healthy), the brownie dessert was excellent, and their “waters” with fruit infusions and lots of mint leaves are good as well. And they have SWEET POTATO FRIES!
63. Pan Sal Aire. Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco. The best pizza so far. Service is slow but the atmosphere and the pizza is great. Too bad they use canned mushrooms. One of the few places with fancy breakfast. The interior is quite stylish and you can take your upper crust friends here. But, why, why, use canned mushrooms?
64. Homemade. Revett 259, Miraflores . They serve breakfast all day. It is homemade and organic. And yes, everything is homemade.
65. Franklin, Avenida Alvarez Calderon 198, in the Roosevelt Hotel. Very American food including pastrami.
66. La Milanesa Verdadera, several locations. It’s chicken fried steak. Also have salads and veggie options.
67. Antica, several locations. Good pizza, good pasta, good salad.
68. Quisso, Av. Paseo de la República 5250. Open 1-3 PM, 5-11 PM. The name is combo of “queso” and “guisso” which are are the words for cheese and stew. It’s a raclette restaurant (the first in Peru) but the idea is typical Peruvian fast food (burgers, hotdog and fries) with a raclette-melted ooze of cheese on top.
69. Dondoh, Av. Los Conquistadores 999, San Isidro. According to some, the best sushi place in town (Maido is in it’s own class).
70. Fuji, Av. Paseo de la República 4084, Miraflores. Apparently a favorite with the Japanese. It was good and they have a menu all in Japanese. Probably the most “authentic” Japanese food in Lima.
71. Punto Italiano, La Molina: Good Italian food.
72. Matria, Calle Gral Mendiburu 823, Miraflores: one of the few restaurant owned by a female chef.
73. Frida, across from Matria: Chef Moma of Jeronimo and Chinga Tu Taco’s Mexican restaurant, opened in August 2018, and a raging success.
74. Los Dos Hermanos Coreanos: on Aviacion. Korean and quite authentic.
75. Statera, Av Mariscal La Mar 463, Miraflores. Described as “like Central but bigger portions.”
76. La Pizza de la Chola: Chola of El Pan de La Chola’s third iteration. Italian style artisanal pizza but the oven uses gas after a bit of wood for show. As of May 2019, they now serve breakfast.
77. Las Tres Suecas, Av. Gral. Córdoba 1193, Miraflores: Three Swedish ladies have opened this little corner of Scandinavia, right around the corner from Avenida La Mar.
78. Dhaasu, Avenida Republica de Panama 245, Barranco. Delish food! Indian food has arrived in Lima! This place opened in early October 2018 and it’s blowing up Instagram. The line is going out the door. Luckily, the owner, Rish, and his Peruvian girlfriend, Camilla, both speak excellent English, and Spanish, so they can explain “what is hindu food?”
80. JianXing, Avenida Aviacion 2619, San Borja: across the street from Viet. This place serves authentic Chinese Chinese food, not Chifa. Not sure if this is true when not with a Chinese speaker…
81. Siete Sopas, Av. Arequipa 2394, Lince (Open 24 hours; seven days a week): This is a soup restaurant from the chain La Lucha Sangucheria. They have three soups each day. They always have “criolla” and “diet” (chicken soup) and then the day’s soup. It’s advertised on the wall outside so you can see the soup of the day from outside (or just have it memorized like some of my friends… “today’s Tuesday, so not MY soup day.”). As of May 2019, they have a second location in Surquillo.
82. Bangkok, José Bernardo Alcedo 460, Lince: This is the other Thai restaurant with Thai owners (a factoid that seems to be important to some). Some of the dishes were nothing but their papaya salad and green curry were good.
83. Carnal, Calle Elías Aguirre 698, Miraflores: steak. This is where the Juicy Lucy chain was born. Same owners.
84. Mérito, Jr, 28 De Julio 206, Barranco: Venezuelan chefs making delicious food. Biggest yuca fries…
85. El Mexicano, Calle Manuel Bonilla 248, Miraflores: Lots of sauces.
86. Sushi Pop, Calle Manuel Bonilla 112, Miraflores: Surprisingly good burger (Angus) and so on.
87. Guru Kebab & Curry, Av. Alfredo Benavides 4518, Surco: Second best Indian. Sit down restaurant.
88. Maria Panela, on La Mar. It’s Brazilian. It’s a cute little place. Not amazing but I did like some of the food. Did I mention it is cute? The owner is friendly.
89. Las Reyes, corner of Mendiburu. Third restaurant from La Red, La Isolina…
90. Boca y Vaca, on Dos de Mayo. It’s a steak house but has everything on the menu.
91. Kaikan, Ovalo Guitierrez, from the same people who brought you Noruto. Cute manga figures and the place is like a Fridays or Chillis of Nikkei food.
92. Enkai, from one of the former chefs at Maido. The hottest new place to go!
93. Monstruo, Nicolas de Pierola 113, Barranco: sandwiches and juice. Open since the 80s. Open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.
94. Bingsu, in downtown and Jesus Maria. Korean style shaved ice dessert. Yum.
95. Cafe A Bistro, Av. Augusto Pérez Araníbar 2193, San Isidro, brunch and other things. Located next to a gas station.
96. TipTop, Av. Arenales 2499, Lince: open since 1953. A drive-in diner where you can still get your food on a tray attached to your car. Delicious soft serve. Go to this location.
97. La Traviata, small Italian place with a really good caprese salad.
98. La Casa de la Nonna Lina, Av Brasil 3898,Magdalena: Some of the dishes were acceptable. Not bad. Spacious interior.
99. Siete, Jirón Domeyer 260, Barranco. It’s got a dark Madrid cosmopolitan feel. Food is good.
100. Troppo: Calle Los Libertadores 199, San Isidro. Best pizza dough in town. Excellent pistachio gelato, tiramisu, meatballs, pasta, salad, ricotta, and bread.
Obviously, I’m not including the places I’ve been where the food was awful or mediocre.
There’s TexMex, or what I call Texican, and then there’s Mexican. Gringos/Americans are obsessed with TexMex. It’s not my favorite cuisine. But, I keep getting asked about it. So here are the places that I’ve heard about in Bogota.
Agave Azul: I haven’t been there yet but I hear it’s good.
Cantina y Punto: It is a place to “be seen” and the food flavors are closer to American Mexican food.
Museo de Tequila: Very touristy. Very burrito-land.
Gringo Cantina: Fancy drinks. More Mexican than Texican. Order the Morillo and the al pastor. This is where I’d go if I wanted to eat Mexican. Everyone will probably go to Agave Azul or Cantina y Punto.
El Techi (in Atlantis Mall): I haven’t been but I will go as I have heard that this is the best from a Mexican…
Taqueria: Again, haven’t been. Tell me what you think.
Mexican food in Bogota? This is one of the most common questions I get. Americans (gringos) are obsessed with “Mexican food” and cry about how they miss Chipotle (an American fast food chain specializing in large burritos etc.). Well, too bad. Or take yourself to Gringo Cantina on Calle 80, 12A-29 (behind the Atlantis mall — or go south on Carrera 11, turn right on Calle 80, and it will be on your left.) The facade is painted in pale pink and blue with large letters that declare: NO MAMES.
This Mexican cantina that has been open for a month now and it doesn’t suck (This is a reference for those who speak Mexican slang). The owner is an Californian with some Colombian roots. He started La Xarcuteria but has sold that concept and no longer has a connection to it. This cantina is his third concept in Bogota. Way to go, entrepreneur!
The owner, Mike, came over to talk to us. His tacos, both corn and flour, are made in house. He is excited to be in Bogota for the start of its culinary revolution (and education). His dishes are small, refined, and fresh. The best dishes are the taco al pastor, the tongue taco (get over it, it’s delicious! Look up, as it is the first one shown in this posting) which he serves so it looks nothing like a tongue for the queasy. Make his day and ask for the taco al pastor without the pineapple (it is too sweet and overpowers the meat).
The sauces are interesting with one made from eggplant/aubergine. The warm tacos are served on warm Colombian pottery which helps keep the freshness. The cold smoked scallop dish was subtle and fresh for those who do not like tacos (and those that do). I would not order the shrimp salad again and the owner admits that this dish is only there to cater to local tastes. I liked the quesadillas with their crunchy fried exteriors and greasy, cheesy, and REAL steak inside (no ground beef, no shredded beef). I enjoyed when Mike and I commiserated about the difference between hard and crunchy as I told him that I like his chicharone/pork rind tostada (an open tortilla that is toasted). Ah, the thrills of foodie geeks!
Dishes came out at a heady speed and Mike left us to eat before coming back for a chat about flavor, sous vide, freshness, seafood, and where to eat in Bogota (so I have a few more to try!). He also kept sending out free dishes for us to try (full disclosure — although this didn’t influence my opinions — it just let me try even more of the menu).
This is a new place so let’s hope it does well. And, yes, he does make a chipotle sauce.
Also: I apologize for the blurriness (and awfulness — the one above which I took quickly as I waited for tacos — to show where the restaurant is situated) of some of the photos… it’s hard to aim and eat at the same time. But, I wanted to post this as soon as possible for the masses… all 37 of you, my readers…
100 restaurants in Bogota. No, I have not been to 100 restaurants in Bogota (like I did in Dhaka)… yet. I might get there accidentally. In Bogota, an emerging foodie city, there are thousands of restaurants. Here are my reviews of the ones I’ve tried to so far (though this list is not of 100, it made for a catchy title)… Strange to think that just a few weeks ago, I wondered what types of food I would not be able to get in Bogota). As usual, I have used my own rating system for this collection of bakeries, food stalls, restaurants, pubs, and other eateries. Abasto, Carrera 6 # 119B-52, Usaquen (11/13): Good and friendly service. The staff are as diverse as the goods offered. They offer food, fresh vegetables, fresh bread, cheese, candy, honey, jams, and so on. The crumble a la mode is delicious. Their bread is the best I’ve had in Bogota. It’s yeasty and actually smells like bread. Plus, I bought a roll of goat cheese (at a hefty $20) which was moldy and rolled in black ash. It was yummy and actually tasted like goat cheese.
Afternoon Tea, Carrera 15 No. 94-51 (12/13): Super friendly staff. Delicious, pillowy clouds of wheat, baked goods and bubble tea. It’s got an elegant interior (hip in the way that Bogota seems to like) and it is conducive to staying a while with friends. Afternoon Tea opened July 13, 2014 and I think they will become a hugely successful chain. Agadon, Carrera 13, No. 85-75, good for “American” dishes (12/13): Good fried winglets (called “alitas fritas” on the menu) appetizer. These are less breaded than the “fried chicken wings on waffle” which is a main course. The “alitas” cost about 13,500 pesos (about $7 U.S. bucks) and the “fried chicken wings” cost around 20,255 pesos (about $10). They also are known for their burgers. The baby back ribs fell off the bone and were pretty good. But, what was different here was, first, that bottles of Sriracha were on every table, and second, their pork belly buns. These “bun pork belly” are served in very authentic pillowy buns with pork belly slices that are fatty and livery. Supposed they are served with kimchi inside but it was more like a salad. Two buns per serving cost 20,255 ($10). This restaurant is one of the better restaurants around. Good for a date night and good for friends. I’ll be back in daylight with my camera! Antigua Santafe Sabor de Antano, Calle 11, No. 6-20, Candelaria (11/13): It claims to have the best ajiaco soup in the world. Located in Candelaria, this place could be much more touristy than it is. The juice (with milk!) was sweet and I’d never had that kind of fruit before so it is another one to add to my list of new fruits. The soup was filling and good. The use of “guasca” a local herb, adds a unique thickening agent and flavor to the soup. Adding my own avocado and rice just makes it even nicer. Burger Market, Calle 93, No. 13B-56, near Parque 93 (9/13): They grow some of their own vegetables. The burgers are acceptable. Tomato soup is made from their own tomatoes. El Oasis, Calle 47 with Carrera 15: (10/13) It’s a few open doors and counters like a mega-stall. “Best” empanadas in town. The picante “aji” sauce is really hot (on the Scoville scale). Who told me that things weren’t spicy in Bogota?
Gran China, Calle 77A # 11-70 (12/13): This place is owned by Taiwanese people and Chinese people eat here. It’s elegant in the old school Chinese restaurant way. Calle 77A is a sort of open plaza but the restaurant is tucked away and their sign is not visible from Carrera 11 so you have to wander down the street on blind faith, although I followed my nose. If you are Chinese and you know how to ask for spicy, you might actually get spicy here! They don’t seem to have a website but you can order delivery via domicilio.
Mercado, Parque 93, Calle 93 (8/13): They have salads, meat on a stick, ceviche, etc. Nothing special but okay. Portions are not huge. It is child-friendly.
Miro, Avenida La Esperanza, Carrera 43A, paella (5/13): It advertises “La paella desde 1963” which of course makes you wonder if the paella is from 1963. The best thing was the shrimp bisque. Museo de Tequila, Carrera 13A #86A-18 (Zona Rosa), Mexican food (6/13): It’s a sensory overload of Mexican kitsch. The “margarita tradicional” is served with a flower in it (a daisy which is a “margarita”) so it’s pretty and strong. While I liked their iPad visual menu, the service was too argumentative for my liking. The chips and salsa were small portions and getting more than ten nachos was a whole extra serving, at cost. The servings were unreliable. I didn’t like the weird miniscule quesadillas (the four quarters were about the size of two iPhones) but the burrito was a normal size portion and cost between $13-16 (I can’t recall exactly but I think it cost about the same as the margarita).
Restaurant Ramen, Calle 26C # 4 – 42 , La Macarena area, Japanese (6/13): I was hopeful once I saw the name. At least it was not obviously instant noodle (although I do like instant noodle — just not at a fancy ramen restaurant). The restaurant served deep fried fake crab pieces as a free appetizer. This seemed like a good sign. But, the ramen, tonkatsu, sushi roll, and salad were not Asian but the Colombian diner found it good. I could not finish my soup because the flavor was too bland while paradoxically, the egg was too salty.
Los Sanduches de Sr. Ostia, Calle 79A, #8-82, Andino mall and other locations, sandwiches (11/13): This place is famous for having the most “authentic” banh mi sandwich in Bogota. The banh mi is a good pork sandwich but it is not a banh mi. It lacks the pickle in the vegetables and there is no sriracha. It also has a green cream sauce which is definitely not Vietnamese. Next time, I may buy it and doctor it to make authentic. The bread roll was good and airy. Sushino, Avenida La Esperanza 44A-63, sushi/Japanese (3/13): The best thing was the lemonade. I tried the “Hong Kong” ceviche, the California roll (which were shaped like tear drops), and the “Eye of the Tiger” roll which involved several types of raw fish. It was all slightly off and dirty. The upstairs has two dining rooms of which the one is supposed to give the feel of a small bamboo forest patio but instead feels a bit like a zoo cage. The Ugly American Bar and Grill, Calle 81 #9-12, American food (7/13): Another swank bar cum restaurant. It’s in a basement so dark that reading the menu was done by light of an iPhone… but, everyone looks even paler and thinner in the darkness. The menu is fairly basic with some classic “gringo” foods. They didn’t have several of the items on the menu but my fish of the day was a white flaky filet. The Brussels sprouts had too much honey on them but were still very firm (I had to spoon them as I couldn’t get a fork into them and I didn’t want to launch them at my table mates in the dark). They didn’t have cheese cake or red velvet muffins… and the large slice of chocolate cake was so bland and boring that it was left on the plate! The best dessert they have is the “popcorn mousse” dessert. It was caramel corn in a jam jar filled with marshmallow fluff, some chocolate sauce which detracted from the dish, and topped with a caramel candy wedge. Wok, Parque 93 and other locations, pan-Asian food (9/13): Their menu is the size of a magazine and includes everything from ramen, curries, maki rolls and sashimi, pad thai, larb salads, and so on. They also offer various juices and grown-up drinks. I had to try the “inca roll” which consisted of a deep fried fish finger inside a rather bland roll. The outdoor seating is heated so that it’s not unbearably cold to dine outside. The interior is all blond wood and glass. They take credit cards and the toilet is clean. The clientele are the usual “boot-wearing, jean-wearing, involved with our own hipness” selves of Parque 93. There are still some restaurants out there that I’ve heard about… I’ll get there.
While there are thousands of restaurants in Washington, DC, few of them truly transport you overseas with one bite of huitlacoche. Sitting around the card table at Taqueria Jugalita will make you feel like you are on an adventure. If you want to go too, here’s how:
1. “Atencion: Solamente Sabado y Domingo, 7 am A 7 pm”
2. Choose your teammates… exclude anyone who cannot handle sitting on a plastic chair in someone’s living room.
3. Cash only. BYOB if you want B. Otherwise, they sell soft drinks.
4.Go to 1445 Park Road, #211, Washington, DC 20010 (That block of Park Road is a tiny example of world fusion with Los Hermanos and a pho restaurant side by side). Ring on the doorbell, wait for the keys to be thrown down to you. Go up to apartment (do not take elevator as it may not work).
5. Try something “bizarre” like beef tongue taco, corn smut (“huitlacoche” – “wheat la coach eh” in my non-phonetic phonetic), or organ meat. Try the sauces on the table. The portion sizes are also “normal” so not as huge (for example, the quesadilla is about the size of a taco since it’s made from one home made corn tortilla — see photo below).
6. Expect to pay $3.50 per taco (so $7 for a plate or around $14 for a meal). It’s not dirt cheap food and not as cheap as street food from a food truck.
Americans are obsessed with “Mexican food” of which there is a dearth of in Dhaka. But, as I have tried 100 restaurants in Dhaka, here are the three “Mexican” places (and my review rating of them):
Uno ~ El Toro, Gulshan 1 (3/13): Mexican. Must try: going on a night when they have avocados (!!!). This is the only real contender and yet…
Dos ~ Quesadilla, Road 11, Banani (3/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Edible and not greasy. The “Mexican pizza” was a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beef added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.
Tres ~ Rush Tex Mex, Road 6, Banani (3/13): Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.
Like a lot of things in the expat life, if you want it, you gotta make it. So we started our own Mexican Monthly Club. Getting enough avocados is the hardest part of making Mexican food in Dhaka. Let us see how it goes. Buen provecho!
80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.
Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.
Ideas Manzil (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat.
Mallika Snacks (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.
KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.
Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.
Istanbul (12/13): Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.
Topkapi (6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!
Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.
New Cathay (10/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.
Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.
Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.
Just Juice (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.
Attin (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.
Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.
Baristo (8/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.
American Burger (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.
Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.
Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.
Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.
Quesadilla (5/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.
I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!