Thursday, December 21, 2006

CLOSED! mexican: LA CASITA revisited

CLOSED
a/o August 2010

LA CASITA
No. 7 on Lane 64, Song Jiang Rd
(02) 2531-9246

$$

date revisited: 12/9/2006
original visit reviewed: 7/29/2005

If you haven't seen the original review, you can scroll down to read it first if you like. LA CASITA has been around for a long time and is one of the few places you can find Mexican food in Taipei. Despite the not-so-friendly service from my last visit, I was craving chicken enchiladas and had no where else to go. All my friends know that since I have been spending more time in Taiwan, the food that I miss most when I am here is Mexican food! Some of my friends were even trying to figure out how to pack and ship some carnitas soft tacos to me. I miss the spices and flavors, the tenderness of carnitas, fresh guacamole and pico de gallo, the melted cheese inside a crispy quesadilla, a bite of mexican rice after eating a bite of an enchilada, holding a carne asada taco and trying to eat it without having it fall apart... man, even El Pollo Loco chicken sounds good when I am here.



The chicken enchiladas here are made with shredded chicken, red sauce and melted cheese, just the way I like it. You can order just one for NT$150/US$5 or get a pair with rice and beans for a combo plate which is probably the best value at NT$280. You can also order combo plates with tacos as well. The accompanying salsa is very very hot and too spicy for me. It doesn't come with guacamole though, just a dollop of sour cream, so I ordered a side of guacamole and chips (NT$180 or US$6).



The chips were a bit stale (who can ask for freshly fried chips in Taipei, yes I know that's asking for a bit too much!) and the guacamole was made with Taiwan avocados which gave it a lighter green color and slightly stringy texture rather than the sweeter creamy taste of Haas avocados that I love in guacamole. They said that they make it from the imported avocados when the Taiwan avocados are not in season, but they are more expensive. But I'm guessing that the imported avocados is reflected in their prices already, so you're out of luck if the Taiwan avocados are in season. Personally, I don't think it's worth the NT$180- you'd be better off ordering the nachos.

It was nice that they put a little tree in the entrance. As we were pretty much their only customers while they were there, the owners were quite chatty and friendly today, mentioning that they could make dishes that weren't available on the menu, like chicken mole, on request.



I have yet to find any other place that can make chicken enchiladas that compare to La Casita's, so until I do, I will probably be back. If you are craving some too, then look for this sign outside in this little alley near Song Jiang Road.



I have heard about Mexican food at Bongos and Citizen Cain, but haven't had a chance to try it yet. Have you ever eaten Mexican food in Taiwan and what has your experience been like? Where would you recommend as the best place to eat Mexican food in Taipei?


ORIGINAL REVIEW:

The first time I went to La Casita was earlier this spring, after craving Mexican food for weeks and not knowing where to find it in Taipei, a quick google named about 3-4 places. I called first, asked when they closed, and they said if we came over that they would stay open for us (I think it was about their afternoon siesta time). I went there with a friend, and he asked the owner for his recommendations for us. We had nachos to start, chicken enchilada for me, and beef burrito for him. He said that his ground beef burrito tasted similar to a meximelt from Taco Bell (which he likes, so it was sort of a compliment, meaning that what the owner chose for him was appropriate). I also was craving chicken enchilada, so we were quite pleased with what the owner recommended. We left satisfied and happy to return again to this mom and pop mexican hole in the wall. We also thought it was a funny coincidence that the owners were relatives of a friend of a friend.

Our most recent experience however, was unfortunately not quite the same. I called first, confirming the address and asked if we had to make reservations for 4-5 people. She asked when we were coming and I said that we were leaving soon- and she said that she would set the table for 4 and add a seat for the 5th person if we needed. I said that was fine. We arrived in different taxis and I was excited to introduce this hidden place to three friends. When we arrived, there were about 4 other customers there occupying 2 tables, and the place is pretty small, with about 4-5 tables in total.

The menu has a selection of appetizers, including chips, nachos and quesidillas, then an assortment of burritos, chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas and combo plates which include a side of rice and beans. There are also fajitas, margaritas and desserts.

Like most mexican or tex-mex places in Taiwan, they charge you for chips, salsa or any accompaniments. We ordered nachos to start, with beef, guacamole and salsa (all additional separate charges) which made them about $10 US. The chips were crispy and topped with nacho cheese, beef and jalepenos. The cheese was like nacho cheese, maybe like the kind you would find at the movie theater, or melt yourself at home from a jar, rather than shredded cheese that was melted on top. The guacamole and salsa looked homemade, and the portion came in a small side bowl. The salsa was pretty spicy, but you can tell them what level of spiciness you want when you order your dishes. It was a decent sized plate of chips, but not enough for five people to share, so we had to order another set.

Because La Casita is a smaller place, everything is basically run by the two owners and their family. They take the orders and then go back to the kitchen and make it. They have two daughters (I think) who come and bus the tables and bring over dishes when they are ready. So you have to have an open mind with the service and be patient since each dish is being made by one person.

The atmosphere is cute and quaint with murals along both sides of the wall, and signatures of previous customers raving about the food or their visit, and making their mark that they were there. It's entertaining to read while you are waiting and you may find a name or two that you recognize.

I ordered a chicken enchilada and chicken chimichanga combo. Overall, I enjoyed the dish- the chimichanga was crispy and the shredded chicken in both were tender. The enchilada had a good amount of cheese and sauce and last time the owner said that the corn in the corn tortilla were made from purple corn. However, the dish was topped with sour cream, which I don't like, but scraped to the side, and no guacamole and a tiny bit of salsa (which I thought I saw came with enchilada).

I also found the dish overall to be a bit salty as did some of the other people that night. I finished most of the food, including the rice, which I liked. The refried beans were a bit dry and I left more than half of that on my plate. The other three people got various assortments of combo plates, which were mostly finished, though I have to say I was disappointed that one person's order was wrong- he ordered a beef burrito and chicken taco and got the reverse, a beef burrito and a beef taco.

Our dishes all came one at a time, and we were pretty much all finished by the fifth person's fajitas came. This was a combo of it being the fifth dish, as well as being shrimp fajitas, I think. When the shrimp fajitas finally came they were not peeled and the heads were still on the shrimp. It looked more chinese than mexican, and the friend whose order it was said it tasted that way. In addition to us all staring at him because we were done and we were curious, he later said the shrimp tasted funny so he had it packed to go. He actually also requested that we stop by Burger King after we left and he ordered a sandwich.

The other thing about that night that left a bad taste in my friends' mouth was that once our food started to come, the restaurant had emptied out. We were cramped into a table for four with five people (four guys) and asked the owner if we could move one of the empty tables to adjoin ours and create more space. He seemed to be in a bad mood and responded "You made a reservation for four." which actually was not true- I had talked to the other owner and explained the situation when I called. The table _was_ occupied when we came, but was now available, as well as the rest of the restaurant. He was more rude than accomodating, as well as when I went to order the extra nachos, he pointed towards the kitchen, rather than accepting the order himself. Later on, he went outside and stood outside grumpily and walked around. This left quite a bad impression on my friends, who felt that he shouldn't have come that day if he was in a bad mood, and it was definitely a contrast to the last time he had greeted us.

So unfortunately, I would say, that if you are really really craving mexican food- you can stop by La Casita. But don't go with a larger or odd numbered group, don't order the fajitas (if you want fajitas, Chilis and TGIF actually have good fajitas) and maybe even get your order to go. I was going to take pictures, but I was kind of scared- maybe the next time if I can convince someone to go with me!

14 comments:

Chubbypanda said...

Mexican food in Taipei!?! (o_O);;

Things *have* changed.

joanh said...

chubbypanda: yup.. mexican food in taipei..however, there aren't a lot of places since there isn't a lot of demand. but i'm glad there's something.

as for la casita, apparently, they have been here for awhile and have loyal customers.

simcooks said...

Hi, Thanks for visiting my site :)

That was a very detailed restaurant review you had there! I felt as if I was there myself.

I have been to Taipei once and enjoyed the food in the night market. (I tried smelly tofu!)

Look forward to more updates from you. Happy Holidays!

Zachary said...

oh my! ur photos really make me feel hungry^^

merry christmas:)

Gloria Yang said...

wow.. i agree with chubbypanda, Mexican food in Taipie?!??

the last time i was there (7 years ago), i just CRAVED mexican food like no other.. but my dad just laughed and told me to wait til i got back to LA..

i honestly don't know if i'm brave enough to try mexican food in taipei though.. i mean, i've been spoiled by places like El Taurino!

Grace said...

HI! I really love reading your blogs about TW eateries. I'll definitely keep a lookout for all the places you've been to when I go back this summer! Just a side question, Do you work in taipei?

joanh said...

simcooks: i actually like stinky tofu. :) i will definitely refer to your site when i visit SF

zachary: merry christmas! i'm always working on making my photos more drool-worthy!

gloria yang: thanks for your comment! mexican food here definitely CANNOT compare to mexican food in LA or California, but at least the enchiladas at la casita resemble enchiladas. see my review for AMIGOS to see what i mean. yes taipei has definitely changed the past 3-7 years!

grace: thanks for visiting! hope it gives a few good suggestions for when you visit. do you have questions about working in taiwan? email me if you'd like... my email is in the top corner of the blog.

Max said...

I have had food @ LA CASITA in 2006just before I left Taipei and it was tasty because everything had lots of cheese in it. I am from India and I am vegetarian. I went with my colleagues to this place and they ordered vege food for me.

I am back in Taipei and want to try it once more with my family.

Patrick said...

La Casita is great and the folks who run it are "salt of the earth." I have eaten there many, many times and have never had a problem. The reviewer took the trouble to make some critical remarks...based on one random experience...which I feel is rather unfair and gives a distorted picture. I have always found them ready to bend over backwards for customers.

joua said...

I agree with the author in that La Casita's service might rub people the wrong way if it's their first time visiting. But otherwise, the food is decent for Mexican this side of the Pacific. Salsa can be fairly spicy and guac a little bit on the light side. Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

>)(

Anonymous said...

hdhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Rich said...

Hi
Just wondering what you know about La Casita? I have been going until recently when they suddenly packed up shop and vanished. Word is they will relocate but haven't heard anything yet. The food is amazing!

Cheers Rich

David said...

La Casita has moved every few years since I first visited back in 1993! (presuming it is the same owner) I hadn't been back - hadn't found it again - in about 10 years!

If someone finds out where the next location is, please post!

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