A Restaurant Review
by David "El Codo" Eidell
El Taco de Huitzilopochtli
|Like the Aztec god of war that the restaurant was named after there is nothing subtle about El Taco de Huitzilopochtli. It is easily the most intensely Mexican restaurant that I've ever visited (although the name says "Taco" this place is a restaurant and not a taco stand). I'd better explain:
Traditional Mexicans love to express their exuberance of things Mexican. When the exuberance is coupled with the talent of a skilled host and chef, and finally amplified by the strong will of a cultural aficionado, the result can be spectacular. The owner of El Taco de Huitzilopochtli is a native of the state of Mexico. His love of things Aztec is evident by the large number of paintings, plaques, statues, and photographs adorning the walls inside. The restaurant motif is green and yellow, with murals of various Aztec demons painted on the stucco.
The menu is an eclectic mix of authentic Aztec fare, and traditional Mexican cuisine. Faithful to it's moniker you will be served ingredients that you will roll up in the fresh corn tortillas to make tacos. You'll find Atole, Horchata, and Pulque, as well as Te de Jamaica, and Pacifico beer. I'd better describe a token number of the entrees:
Fungus gathered in fallow cornfields after the first rain (there is little to separate Mexico's corn fungus from France' Oak Tree Root Fungus, also known as truffles). The delicacy is served steaming, rolled up into a quesadilla
FLOR de CALABAZA
Another quesadilla-like taco made with flowers of the pumpkin plant.
A bundle of kale-like greens drenched in tomato sauce. The dish is cooked "Barbacoa style" after being wrapped in banana leaves and interred below ground. The tasty edible part has to first be stripped-off of the stick-like stalk.
Rabbit in a tomato orange flavor stew.
Baby Goat in a tomato stew
Very thin enchiladas that have been deep-fried to almost a crunchy consistency.
Enchilada like stuffed taco, with cheese and sauce.
Barbacoa style pork drenched in Achiote flavored tomato sauce
No less than six salsas are brought to the table. They range in color from pale salmon color to a deep umber. Corn chips are considered taboo - they aren't authentic.
Light Red Salsa
Best described as something like a creamy Pico de Gallo. Mild overtones of Serrano chile, onion, and cilantro.
Medium Red Salsa
A cooked sauce, with chile Cascabel, with more garlic than salsa above. Spicier.
Dark Red Salsa
Hearty and spicy. Made with chiles de arboles. Great with Birria.
Very Dark Salsa
Rich and thick Chipotle sauce heavy on Jalapeno chiles, and mesquite smoke flavor.Thin Green SauceTomatillo salsa. Bright and snappy, with just a hint of tangeyness
Thick Green Sauce
Based on avocados. A hint of lime and the sparkle of chile piquin.
The director central of all this exuberance is smiling Senor Casimiro Cordoba, with his lovely wife and extended family. You'll find the mustachioed white haired gentleman visiting each table in turn, cracking jokes yet expressing concern over your satisfaction with the food and service. If you should speak Spanish ask him about the significance of the Aztec gods and goddesses depicted on the plaques on the wall over your head. On another wall is a framed photograph of Casimiro and his bride.
Rather than try to jam a Mariachi group between the tables, Senor Cordoba elects to provide a talented singer who accompanies a CD sound system in providing musical entertainment for the patrons. The effect is better than it seems on the surface. The big dollar stereo system may not be "authentic" but the hidden speakers and you-are-there sound quality more than makes for it. I have found that the singers are every bit as talented as those that are seen on Sunday night Mexican variety Television programs. The singer strolls with the aid of a cordless microphone from table to table. The effect can be dramatic, especially when you're nibbling on corn fungus and sipping fermented cactus juice (pulque). Traditional music is predominant, with heavy emphasis on favorite tunes (such as La Que se Fue).
Paying The Bill
Take cash, as American Express (and all other plastic) is not accepted. You won't need much. Four people can be fed, and irrigated for about thirty dollars including tip (I should have said four hungry lumberjacks). Slightly higher for dedicated beer guzzlers.
Hours Of Operation
Saturday and Sunday only, from ten Am to six PM
Ensenada Baja California
How To Find It
Ask directions to the Juarez Monument. From the monument drive north on the transpeninsular highway about two and a half miles to Calle Ambar. You can recognize the intersection (traffic light) because the road ahead of you becomes much narrower. Turn right on Ambar. Drive until the avenue ends at a T intersection. Turn left and count two streets on your left and make another left. The restaurant is on the next corner to your left.