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.


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

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