Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I'm a big fan of Mexican food, and an even bigger fan at anything considered a good cheap eatery. Wahaca is supposed to combine the two, having been The Observer Food Monthly's pick as being the the Best for Cheap Eats in 2008.

Now, I've walked by the original on Chandos Place many a time but never at a time when I had the time to kill, or when I was hungry. On Saturday, I happened to be at Westfield, having somehow found myself there after meeting with some people I'd met via Meetup.com, and figured that I might as well grab dinner there, rather than starve on the journey home.

So I wandered into Wahaca by myself, had to wave at one of the waiters so that I could be seated - I guess not too many people dine solo at Wahaca? - and tried to figure out what I should eat without going overboard. That's the real problem with eating by oneself - variety's not on the cards if you don't have the mouths necessary to justify ordering a selection of dishes.

While reading the menu, I was startled by someone plunking himself into the seat opposite. It turned out to be my waiter who took me through how the menu was structured. While I appreciated the gesture (he repeated it with every other table that came in), I was a little taken aback by the fact that he'd sat himself opposite me to explain this. To be honest, it felt like a tiny invasion of my personal space (this being my table, after all). Tiny, but an invasion nonetheless.

In any case, I ordered two small dishes of street food: pork pibil tacos and chorizo and potato quesadillas. These were served with a selection of mild and hot salsa.

A selection of sauces

I really enjoyed the pork pibil, as there really isn't any slow-cooked pork dish out there that I don't enjoy. And, coming after the halal lunch I had earlier in the day (which involved, horror of horrors, a dish of chicken char siew, a dish I thought I left behind after Singapore began importing pork from anywhere other than Malaysia aka the Japanese encephalitis period), the pork was most definitely welcomed.

Pork pibil tacos (£3.75)

The chorizo and potato quesadillas, on the other hand, weren't so great. The menu described the filling as as being made of Wahaca's "special organic, homemade Mexican chorizo, fresh thyme and steamed potato" but there was no taste whatsoever of chorizo. I doubt there was anything more than a few bits of chorizo, although there was certainly a lot of cheese.

Chorizo and potato quesadillas (£3.75)

Now, the main reason I'd ordered two small dishes was because I wanted to leave space for dessert: chocolate y churros. I'd obviously had some when I want to Santiago de Compostela and was a little disappointed (the churros tasted very much like you tiao, and I thought they were supposed to be cinnamony and sweet), and thought I'd give it another go even though I was now back in London.

Churros y chocolate (£3.40)

While I liked it - it's hard not to like anything that has molten chocolate as a dipping sauce - there was not a trace of cinnamon nor sugar on the churros. Wahaca's web site describes churros as being coated with sugar and cinnamon, so what happened?!

All in all, Wahaca's definitely a cheap decent place to eat at. The staff were generally okay; I definitely can't fault the friendliness of my waiter, who confessed to the American-born Indian couple next to me that he, as a Mexican, loved Taco Bell (which I do too, even if I've only eaten at the ones in Singapore, but then again, I also think Carl's, Jr. makes the best burgers, so maybe I'm just a junk food addict). I was a little disappointed by the food though. The next time I have a Mexican craving, and if I'm not on a budget, I'll head to Green & Red rather than Wahaca. This being the credit crunch times though, Wahaca will have to do.

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