Overall, I’ve been pretty lucky in more than a year of writing this column. Rarely have I had an experience that requires a really bad review. I credit this to people in general having reasonably good taste. Restaurants are a tough business to start with, and if the public doesn’t like a place, well, it often doesn’t last long enough for me to get there.
Unfortunately, this was not the case with La Casita Mexicana. Admittedly, it is brand new, having just opened in 2011. I was surprised to see it when it popped up as one half of Wicked Chili on 17 Avenue, because, for a city with so few Mexican restaurants, it seems like the latest trend is to cluster them all together on the same street. La Casita is literally across the street from the venerable El Sombrero, while Los Chilitos is farther down, toward 14 Street.
When my spicy-food friends and I stopped in for dinner on a weeknight, it seemed promising, despite some odd décor, including a mural on one wall that would have worked well on the cover of a romance novel. The prices are quite reasonable, with nearly all the entrées in the low-mid teens, and the service was friendly.
We started with the appetizer platter, consisting of nachos, marinas, frijoles chillones, guacamole, calamari, salsa and taquitos dorados. They were out of the calamari that is usually on the platter, but made up for it with extra portions of everything else. On the whole, it was decent. The guacamole and tacos were extremely average, but the taquitos were quite good, crispy without being overly greasy, and nicely savoury. The mole sauce on the marinas (miniature sandwiches filled with pulled chicken) wasn’t awe-inspiring, either and we all agreed we wouldn’t want an entire meal of them.
When our entrées arrived, we realized just how lucky we’d gotten with the appetizers. The chimichanga was the best of the lot, and the only one we finished completely. Next best were the tacos callejeros, which we chose to have with beef (as opposed to chicken). Though they were quite bland, despite a filling of chorizo potatoes, cheese, onions, and tomato salsa, there was nothing technically wrong with them.
The same could not be said of our other two items. I only had two bites of the chicken quesadilla, because those bites contained two small, hard pieces. I don’t know what they were, but they shouldn’t have been in quesadilla filling. Beyond that, the texture of the filling was runny, and the flavour a bit like gravy. The worst offender were the tostadas. Despite the dim lighting, it was immediately obvious when we broke one of the clumps of ground beef with a fork that it was pink inside. Suffice it to say, we all lost our appetites.
La Casita may have just said ‘hola’ to Calgary, but based on our experience, I expect it will be ‘adiós’ before long.
On the ratings scale:
1 out of 5 Stars
La Casita Mexicana
507C 17 Avenue SW