Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana’s molé sauce over enchiladas was the perfect way for reviewer Allan Reid to revisit his trips to the humble outskirts of Puerto Vallarta.

Restaurant Review: Authentic Mexican molé hits the spot

Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana’s hearty, spicy sauce works well over enchiladas, writes Allan Reid

By Allan Reid

Monday Magazine restaurant reviewer

I swear I’ve visited Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana, or someplace much like it, in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica, particularly in those blocks on the East side of the highway, in the valley that backs up against the tunnels. If you know the area, then you know what I mean.

To be polite, I’ll call the place quaint, with rough surface textures of wood and plaster, old tables and chairs and crudely built booths. And still, pride-of-ownership shines vibrant and alive in the bright colours, strings of plastic festival flags, collections of glamorous sombreros, handwoven blankets and other random Mexican trinkets, and, of course, in the friendly smiling service provided by Ricardo and his family.

Allan Reid, Monday Magazine restaurant reviewer/File photo

Mama runs the kitchen while Papa runs the front-of-house, and the whole family is present, some working, younger ones playing. Plenty of Spanish fills the air, spoken by staff and customers. Food is simple – tacos, tortillas, empanadas, enchiladas – served mild, but with bottled hot sauces, fresh Pico de Gallo and chili sauces on the side.

Fresh vegetables, tortillas still hot off the press, and refried beans not pureed into a bland, homogenous sludge are de rigor. In Mexico, such meals are not the sumptuous fare of trained chefs, but rather Mama’s authentic home-cooking made to order and offered humbly and without apology to anyone willing to pay the modest price asked. And if you, as I, prefer Mama’s simple cooking to the overwrought creations of Malecon fish and steakhouse chefs, then Victoria’s Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana is your Mexican place in Victoria.

My all-time favourite Mexican dish is molé: a hearty and spicy chocolate sauce served over just about any meat. Good molé should not be sweet, nor should it be bitter as unsweetened chocolate is. It should have a robust body like molten dark chocolate and a pleasant chili burn. La Tortilla Mexicana’s molé nails it for me. Served over Three Enchiladas ($19.99) stuffed with white-meat chicken, the molé is drizzled with sour cream and sprinkled with grated cotija cheese (a mild, soft cheese that grates into delicate curds). It is accompanied by saffron rice dotted with carrots, a simple slaw and Mama’s refried beans, which retain their nutty-earthy flavour.

The same sides also accompany the Carne Asada ($24.95). Thin-sliced marinated steak is sautéed with caramelized onions and served with two freshly made tortillas. One fills and rolls to taste. A good portion of steak and onions, a tablespoon’s worth of refried beans, two fork-fulls of saffron rice and a big pinch of slaw works for me. But two tortillas is at least two too few, and I found the steak overcooked – dry and a tad leathery – though the flavours were terrific.

I felt like a house-guest at La Tortilla, enjoying my host’s warm hospitality. Food was served quickly, water glasses were kept full, and Ricardo was genuinely interested in our enjoyment of the meals. But if you’ve dined in a Mexican family restaurante before, then you have probably already noted the Malecon pricing mentioned above.

At a tiny family-run diner in the Eastern part of the Zona Romantica, three fresh and delicious fish tacos served with tortilla chips and fresh-made Pico de Gallo might cost about $8CDN. But Victoria is not Mexico: nothing is cheap here. That said, the Carne Asada did not offer the value I expect for a $25 meal, but I’ll happily return for that Molé.

Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana

1205 Quadra St. 250- 590-1422

latortilla.website2.me

————

Read previous columns by Allan Reid:

ALLAN REID: Paul’s undergoes a culinary face lift

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Bracing for changes to Pluto’s experience

REVIEW – Boom + Batten: Taste and style with a view to die for, sometimes

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Taking you back to Trinidad

Restaurant review

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Restaurante la Tortilla Mexicana offers authentic Mexican food in the heart of downtown Victoria. Photo by Allan Reid

Just Posted

WINE NOTES: This blended red won’t get your goat

Robert Moyes takes us from South Africa to Spain, Chile to the Okanagan for his latest wine musings

REVIEW: UVic drama department shows a flair for comedy

Student actors have fun with artificial intelligence in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential

REVIEWS Pt. 2: Film fest heads into its final weekend in Victoria

Here’s your next batch of reviews from VFF 2020 from Monday’s intrepid film buff

Juno award-winning fiddler brings workshop and concert to Victoria

Second annual event features some of Canada’s finest traditional musicians, Feb. 14 and 15

Beethoven 250: Victoria getting ready to celebrate

Victoria Symphony to play all nine of the composer’s symphonies during March birthday celebrations

Fashion Fridays: Apple body types: What you need to know

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Comedian Herb Dixon going Full Throttle in Greater Victoria

Comic gearing up for shows in Oak Bay and at Elements Casino next week

ALLAN REID: Chicken bonanza, Korean style

Simple Victoria restaurant knows how to please if your go-tos are chicken and fries

Island MusicFest going to Bahamas to close show

Comox Valley hosting annual musical extravaganza July 10-12 at the Fairgrounds

Take your pick of artsy activites this Family Day weekend

From museums and galleries to historic aircraft, there’s many options for families to choose from

Kirk Douglas, longtime influential movie star, dies at 103

LOS ANGELES — Kirk Douglas, the intense, muscular actor with the dimpled… Continue reading

Most Read