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A taste of real Mexican food

Updated: 2010-09-30 09:35
By Eileen Wen Mooney ( China Daily)

A taste of real Mexican food
Clockwise from top: Ensenada Taco Fish (68 yuan); Enchiladas Verdes (86
 yuan); Crema Poblana (48 yuan). Photos provided to China Daily

The dining scene in the capital has become a cuisine kaleidoscope. International cuisines are on the rise but none more so than South American cuisine.

Casa Latina opened in April this year, serving up an authentic taste of Mexican food and a Latino beat, played daily by a live band after 9 pm. The red-and-green frilly outfits worn by its female staff members also help enliven the atmosphere.

We opened our meal with Crema Poblana (48 yuan), a creamy soup made from roasted spicy Poblano peppers and served with fresh cheese cubes, cheese chicharron, corn kernels and crispy corn strands - it is mildly spicy and very tasty.

Next up was Ensenada Taco Fish (68 yuan). A popular dish in the city of Ensenada itself, not too far from San Diego, California, it is incredibly fresh, light, crispy and mouth-watering.

The cylindrical fish is thinly covered in batter and deep-fried to a golden brown. It is served on a mini wheat flour tortilla and accompanied with green chili sauce, mayonnaise and finely diced sweet red and yellow pepper - this helps deter the burning sensation of the chili sauce. The fish is a winner, though a tad small.

However, both Enchiladas Verdes (86 yuan) and Ropa Vieja (65 yuan) arrive in generous portions with each dish being enough for two people.

The enchiladas is filled with boneless chicken and covered with melted cheese, then entrenched by a beautiful cream sauce made with tomato-like small and green tomatillo, emanating a hint of lemon flavor.

The latter Ropa Vieja is one of the few Cuban dishes offered on the menu. It consists of shredded beef and black bean rice garnished with a few slices of fried banana. The unassuming black bean rice is compact with an undefined, yet distinguished and distinctive flavor. The texture of the rice is perfect and the fried banana is firm while not too sweet, which compliments the rice.

Excellent Cuban Bucanero beer (45 yuan) can accompany the meal with a two-for-one deal before 8 pm. The beer is akin to Guinness but tastes even better because of its light taste.

The meal closed with Arroz con Leche (30 yuan) and cappuccinos (30 yuan). Arroz con Leche is rice pudding, one of the best I've ever tasted, bathed in milk and sprinkled with ground cinnamon. The cinnamon flavor is invasively strong so that you can immediately sniff its fragrance.

The food at Casa Latina is a total departure from Americanized Tex-Mex, thanks to Yessica Hernandez, a young and passionate chef born in the small town of Guadalajara, Mexico. She earned her culinary degree from Colegio Superior en Gastronomia Condesa.

A taste of real Mexican food

When asked about cooking, Hernandez poured out stories of how she loves to copy her grandmother. She said that when she makes Flan de la Abuela, an amazingly delicious cream caramel, it has to bubble the way her grandmother's did. This is the dessert I'll be ordering on my next visit.

Dining at Casa Latina is a journey of Mexican gastronomy. Our evening was pleasant from the beginning to the end, complimented with terrific Latino music as well as attentive service.