liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Mexican Food in Portland: La Calaca Comelona

The search goes on. "We need to read our reviews closer or somethin'. That was just way out there." is what Suzanne just said about the restaurant we went to tonight. I picked it. I read some foodie newsletter that bragged on this place, and then a guy who lives a few blocks from there said it was really good. La Calaca Comelona is the name of the place, it's on Belmont. Here's the pretty website: Someone more artistic flair is running the place.

First of all, the restaurant was cool, not quite warm enough to take off my coat but I did anyway because I'm trying to lose a few pounds, and one way to do it is to keep your body working trying to get warm. The walls were painted all those Mexican pastels only a bit brighter and darker, almost jewel toned. Two walls were covered with Frida Kahlo memorabilia, including a couple of real art portraits of her, and prints of a couple of her paintings. The sexiest tango scene ever was in the movie about Frida.

But back to the restaurant, to make a long story short, it was a lot of money for some very cheap ingredients served luke warm. There were no chips and salsa to be had. The margaritas were average. The $20 special was a chile relleno, sort of. It was a pasilla pepper stuffed with ground beef that was sweet due to the raisins in it. It wasn't battered or egged, but instead had a sweet nutty sauce on it with pomegranate nuggs on top. The side was a casserole made of old tortillas, white rice and tomato paste, or something like that. It was bland and sweet. It was all arranged very artistically on the plate with a large sprig of parsley.

Suzanne ordered tacos because she's wise to fancy restaurants and knows that the simplest thing on the menu is likely to be the best. It arrived as a pile of beef strips on a small flour tortilla, luke warm once again. They forgot her cheese. She sent the 2nd one back and it came out hot the second time. The most authentic thing about the whole experience was the huge hunk of gristle she found in her beef.

While there may be some authentic dishes on the menu from the homeplace of the owner, we didn't know what they were. We give it two stars, one for the Frida walls and one for the salsas, red and green. The salsas were something that they purchased, but at least they purchased good ones. We skipped dessert and with one margarita per person the tab was $37, plus tip of course.

I remembered late that one should NEVER order the special at that sort of restaurant. Their menu is too extensive, and whatever the special is, it is made of ingredients that were about to go bad and had to be used up. Only order specials at small restaurants with limited menus, that's when they really are the feature.

We also decided that from now on we will ask if the restaurant serves chips and salsa. In order for us to sit down in a Mexican restaurant we need free chips and salsa. No more sitting down anywhere else, we'll go to the grocery store instead.

RATING with system as devised on 3/7/08 is 1.5 out of 10. To be fair, this restaurant showed us what we absolutely don't want.
1) free hot crisp chips (0!)
2) free with choices of salsa, one of which should be HOT (0)
3) margarita with tequila and lime in it, no high fructose corn syrup (0 HCFS main ingredient)
4) food and plate temperature sizzling hot (0)
5) menu: simple, fresh, authentic, not "creative" (0)
6) good sauces/beans/tortillas (0 side dishes FUBAR)
7) good entrees (0)
8) reasonable price (0)
9) pleasant space, warmth colors, lighting, smells, service, etc. (.5 cold but we liked the blonde waitress who trilled her R's)
10) "Sopapilla o' tortilla?" (0)
BONUS: (1 for the Frida wall)
Tags: creativity, food, mexicans, oregon, portland, tequila

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