I don't shell out 2 star reviews, least of all to restaurants with such an inviting ambience. From the outside looking in, PopoCatePetl presents as a modern, obviously recently reupholstered restaurant, with tasteful black wood flooring and a stylish, comfortable outdoor seating area. The menu was also promising: huevos rancheros, corn "buns", and a reasonably priced small-plate selection.
We were brought to our table (something few restaurants do in the Netherlands) by our waiter, who promptly gave us each a menu. I ordered a glass of white wine, and my partner stuck to tap water. The wine was crisp and acidic, the water tepid, and the menu, as I stated before, enticing.
We ordered those few dishes I outlined above. Chips and guacamole came out within 10 minutes, but were (for God knows what reason) dusted with some form of allergenic, supermarket-bought taco seasoning. The guacamole fell similarly flat; the lack of salt, red onion, or even lime to counter its fatty notes gave us little reprieve from the aggressively and unpleasantly spiced chips.
A side note here, before I dive into critiquing our lunch. Mexican restaurants of the world: serve me a damned white tortilla chip, freshly fried, with large grain salt. Serve me some freshly mashed avocado. Garnish it with cilantro, onion (if you please), salt and lime, until you taste something other than just flaccid and flat-falling fat.
Anyway, the main course. The piéce de rèsistance.
My huevos rancheros arrived in a small dish with two white tortillas. The egg had been scrambled and mixed throughly with the rest of the dish's ingredients. Pico de gallo supposedly made an appearance, along with something called "red tomato chow chow". The result was a hyper-sweet, disingenuous, and over-simplified casserole, with no heat, no zest, and no Mexican flavor. A few pieces of pulled pork did little to remediate the dish's complete absence of texture: maybe I have the chow chow to thank for that.
My partner's Healthy Corn Bun was described by our charming waiter as a cornmeal bun, topped with crispy salad, beans, pico, and queso fresco. We were hoping for an arepa, maybe with some sauce, and a satisfying vegetarian relish.
Imagine your most disappointing local hot dog stand decided, one day, to take a trip to the local farmers' market, round up some vaguely South American-sounding veggies, and throw them on a plain, undressed, not even toasted white flour bun.
It was a thoroughly unpleasant dish, made all the more hilarious by its woefully obtuse, self-unaware presentation on a rustic wood cutting board.
A hot dog bun. On a cutting board. For 7.00€.
Our waiters were nice, though. And I'm sure the management is as well. But take it from me: this is not Mexican food. I'm not even sure where it IS from. Come for the wine, the liquored coffees, and the atmosphere. Leave before the 5€ a la carte tacos get ahold of you.
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