TACO MEXICO (494 Queen West, at Portland, 416-862-1777) Calling itself a hacienda of Mexican cuisine might be a stretch for this modish spot with a menu that puts the Tex-Mex enchilada through a global shredder. Mexican spring rolls and bruschetta? Traditional this ain't, but in a weird way sometimes it works. Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open daily 11:30 am to midnight. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN
taco mexico certainly tries. The room was once a short-lived hip Korean eatery à la San, and its sleek modernism remains. The soundtrack ranges from drum 'n' bass to blue-beat to uptempo Nick Cave numbers. (He's still singing about murdering someone, but sounds very happy about it.) Ignore the tacky sign out front and the claims of the luridly designed takeout flyer; Taco Mexico is not a Mexican restaurant. Call its spicy mashed kidney beans Laotian Legumes, and a tender Thai chili-charged stew Indonesian Beef Pepper Pot and they'd be interesting if clueless cuisine. But to pass them off as Texas Red Chili ($6.50) with refried beans is to laugh. Mexican bruschetta? Mexican spring rolls (both $4.95)? Jalapeño Poppers -- bar food! -- straight from the freezer ($5.95)?
Think of jalapeño cheddar soup ($3.95) as watery nachos, some commercial-tasting cream of cheese soup thick with minced stewed peppers. It's still pretty good, even if the corn chips and mild salsa seem supermarket-bought (hello, President's Choice). The kitchen has a nice trick of turning a large flour tortilla into a fluted deep-fried dish to hold Taco Bowl Salad ($6.50) -- hot veggie chili over cold iceberg lettuce. The strips of breaded chicken cutlet topping the Taco Mexi Salad ($8.50) taste pre-cooked and nuked.
A note to whoever came up with this menu: even given that Caesar salad was invented in a Tijuana trattoria in 1924, what's so Mexican about Mexican Caesar salad ($5.50) other than the tortilla bowl it's served in? At least the chefs didn't melt a slice of processed cheese over it like they do with the apple burrito ($4.95).
Another mystery: the patty in the Mexi Burger ($6.50) weighs in, cooked, at a skimpy 3 ounces. It comes with dill pickle and anemic fries that are so undercooked they might as well be frozen.
I'm all for culinary genre-busting. But if taking a tortilla and stuffing it with Monterrey Jack, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken and jalapeño pepper, dubbing it a Club Burrito ($8.95, with those weird if tasty refried beans and frozen-veggie-free pink rice) and ladling it with a cream sauce that would be more comfortable on linguine are remotely Mexican, I'll eat my sombrero. email@example.com