Monday, December 28, 2009

El Zarape : Philadelphia

Jan 6, 2010 Update - We were originally planning to go to Cantina Los Caballitos across the street, but the locals at Artisan Boulangerie recommended Zarape over Cantina, saying it was more authentic and less of a hipster hang-out and in particular recommended their soups.  So we decided to give it another go.

Huitlacoche Quesadilla - Had no idea what huitlacoche was and the waittress described it as corn (It's apparently a fungi that grows on corn). The huitlacoche, roasted green chili peppers, onions all cooked such that they all had a soft eggplant texture. Covered with a just cooked tortilla. Then accompanied with cabbage and sour cream. I initially thought it was a bit plain-tasting, but in some ways, if you're looking for a light, cleansing type dish, this would work just fine. Very homey. Not destination-worthy by any means, but certainly if I lived in the area, I wouldn't mind stopping by for this now and then.


Aztec soup - Salty. It had bits of chicken in it, but surprisingly demonstrated more heartiness than a chicken broth, reminding more me of an oxtail soup than anything. Had a moderate kick, but I really couldn't tell whether the kick was from chile or the salt. Strangely, I didn't quite mind the saltiness, as I usually do. This was sort of simple, but ok in a homey way.


Horchata - Had a flavor that tasted literally a bit as if milk had been mixed together with the standard rice, cinnamon flavors.

I think I'd still head on up to the Washington Street area for my Mexican fix, but this might not be bad if you live in the neighborhood.

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El Zarape is bit south of the 9th St & Washington Ave area where the more frequented Mexican taquerias are located. It was not on my "must try before I leave Philly" list. But rather my gf and I were in the neighborhood and hungry and had never heard of it and I figured that it'd be good to try out a restaurant, outside of the known community favorites for once.


As probably could be expected from a random restaurant choice and random selections, things were a bit hit-or-miss.

Tortilla chips - tomatillo salsa - Had a kick, but somehow didn't taste as fresh as it could have been. The other red salsa also had a slight kick, but I think it was made with a sweeter chile that tempered it a bit. Tortilla chips deep-fried like those at Taqueria Veracruzana, but not served hot.  The sole redeeming thing was the black beans, which had a cleaner and less thick-gooey taste/texture than your standard black beans.


Agua de jamaica - tasting like cranberry juice w/ a floral aftertaste.  Hmm, reading the wikipedia entry on this, this is hibiscus tea and not my erroneous impression that it's a fruit juice.  No wonder, I've always gotten the unshakable feeling that all of the agua de jamaica's have had a not-fresh from-a-bottle flavor.  Oops.


Tacos Al Pastor - marinated pork w/ pineapple tacos double corn tortillas.  Hmm, shrug, I'd go for the La Lupe and Taqueria La Veracruzana over these.


Tacos Campechanos - Mixed tacos - honestly, I'm not sure I could really taste the difference between the meats in the tacos, especially with in the poblano chile marinade that makes it taste like Americanized tex-mex taco mixes.  But I did like these better than the Tacos Al Pastor and of particular note were the flour tortillas, which had a lovely, puffy bounce to them. If only all flour tortillas were like this.


Looking over my thoughts, I suppose, with the exceptions of the black beans and the flour tortillas, El Zarape was more of a miss than a hit. But there's a reason for being in this area, which I'll cover tomorrow.


El Zarape
1648 East Passyunk Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19148-1122 (Map)
(215) 336-1293
elzarapephilly.com‎

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