Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mexican Love for Cinco de Mayo: PUEBLO Mexicano

Two days ago I had a bad craving for Phad Thai noodles and on the way to Little Saigon, Big Bangkok at Banilad Town Center, a Mexican restaurant that recently opened (occupying the space that used to be Postrio) caught my eye. Perfect timing since making Mexican food has been on my mind these days. 

My dad is fond of buying items on sale at the supermarket in Ayala, usually items where you get another one for free. Then he splits the loot with me. The truth is, I have a long list of recipes to do that I haven't even started yet and that bag of tortilla chips (that I'm planning to turn into an awesome cheesy Chicken Enchilada Nachos Bake) including 2 packets of TimTams and a bag of pretzels are still waiting for me in the cupboard. I really should get on that list soon.

PUEBLO Mexicano is not such a stranger to Postrio after all. One of the waiting staff told me that the owners of this new cool restaurant are related to the owners of the cafe. 

Team RED
No plastic booths and funky yellow walls to be seen. This new restaurant is classy with a lot of Mexican attitude and some interesting decor.

For starters, Tortilla Chip N' Dip with fresh Pico de Gallo (PHP 120.00)
The tortilla chips were lightly salted and crisp but looked as if it came from a bag, not homemade and tasted generic. See how the 3 edges of the chips are uniformly rounded instead of the sharp pointy edges you should get if you make your own tortilla chips by cutting a whole corn tortilla into wedges?

On the other hand, the Pico de Gallo was lovely. Very fresh with the right amount of onions and zest although it lacked heat. There was also way more chips with the amount of fresh salsa served.

Tortilla Chips with Pico de Gallo
It took only 12-13 chips to use up all that Pico de Gallo in the small bowl. There was plenty of chips left with no more salsa (sob). Please add more.

I have been itching to make Pozole for the longest time but the only place I know selling hominy is the supermarket in Ayala and they only come in big cans weighing at 2-3 kgs or so. How am I going to finish all of that? I'm going to be eating hominy for the rest of my life more likely for a month if I buy it - ha! no way.

Spotted! I was really excited to see Pozole on the menu!  Of course I wasn't going to miss it. This is my chance! I've seen a lot of Pozole recipes online so I was expecting something similar to this. Pozole is a rich Mexican stew that is either red or green depending on the chilies used, with pork or chicken, hominy and other add-ins like shredded cabbage, onions  or radish. 

And this is what I got. I was sadly disappointed.
I thought that Pozole was supposed to have lots of hominy. But when I dug my spoon into that soup, all I found were small bits of pork fat swimming in a mildly spicy broth with a few slivers of tortilla and hardly any hominy so I asked the waitress about it since it clearly said on the menu that it contains hominy. Luckily, she was kind enough to take the dish back and gave me another one with less pork fat and more hominy.

This was the 2nd bowl of soup. Well, still not a lot of hominy but better than the first bowl. 
See those lovely kernels on the spoon?  Hominy is made from corn kernels soaked in an alkali solution that makes them puffy, chewy and pale white in color with a unique taste.

Enchilada Vegetal y Queso 
This is one enchilada that I liked. Roasted eggplant, zucchini and red bell pepper made a perfect filling for this delicious cheesy enchilada. It was a hearty dish with a good flavor.

The tortilla was nice, soft and chewy at the top and bottom. 

Enchilada Vegetal y Queso 

Just the right amount of cheese! It almost looks like a Mexican lasagna, don't you think?

Enchilada Vegetal y Queso 

One thing though, I didn't like the black charred bits of skin from the roasted vegetables. It would have been better if they had scraped it off before stuffing the tortilla with the veggies. It was troublesome to have to pick them out from the enchilada. Yeah, call me fussy but I'm scared with the health risks involved with eating anything too charred or burnt.

What's fun and unique with PUEBLO is that you can also mix and match your dish, filling and salsa with other add-ins like rice, black beans or cheese, California Mission Style. 

Burrito Bowl with Barbacoa de Res and Spicy Fire Roasted Salsa
Take all the ingredients that you fancy in a burrito and mix them all up in a bowl minus the tortilla - cilantro lime rice, black beans topped with shreds of beef braised in ancho chile adobo sauce, a spicy roasted salsa and too much sour cream (I'm not sure but I think it's sour cream). Just a dollop would have been more than enough.
Burrito Bowl with Barbacoa de Res and Fire Roasted Salsa

The beef was tasty and tender, which was about the only thing I liked about this dish. The supposedly spicy roasted salsa lacked the heat it promised and the rice could use a little more flavor from the cilantro. I wasn't impressed with it. 

For me, Mexico is all about festive vibrant colors. Fresh vibrant colors that this dish lacked and needed. More red and a bit of green and yellow, it would have been HEAPS better with the cilantro corn salsa with an extra order of pico de gallo, lettuce, cheese and chopped avocado. 

You can always ask for this to add more heat.

Jamaica Agua Fresca (with Red Hisbiscus)
Jamaica Agua Fresca is water flavored with dried Hisbiscus flowers, like an iced tea. It looks similar to cranberry juice and quite honestly, tastes like it too. It was tart and refreshing. The best thing about it? It's loaded with Vitamin C.

Jamaica Agua Fresca (Red Hisbiscus)  (PHP 60.00)

Overall, I was satisfied enough with the food. The staff was nice, friendly and helpful. I'm also curious to try the other interesting stuff on the menu. I can't wait to get my hands on that tamale and fish taco on my next visit!