OOLA MEXICAN GRILL
website: Oola's Facebook page
hours: SUN-THU: 11AM-10PM
$ Cash only
Kid friendliness: no high chairs. but quesadillas available off the menu for kids
Visit reviewed: 6/2/2010
Let's be honest. If you're craving Mexican food in Taipei, you're kind of out of luck. The options here are slim and imperfect and not to mention, on the pricey side. And as much as I liked Eddy's Cantina, it's hard to get to Danshui for a craving unless you have a couple hours to get there and back.
But hopefully Oola Mexican Grill will change that.
Tucked behind the movie theaters in Gongguan, it just opened last week and already has good word of mouth. Even though it was already on my to-do list, I received emails and comments with raves. So did I have high expectations? I tried to keep them in check- after all, this is a city where Mexican food often comes with a side of fries, or nachos consist of Doritos with a side of salsa (real experience!).
Let's start with the good, and there's a lot that is good.
There's burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, fajitas and salads, all for about NT$120-$150. If you've never been to a Chipotle, this is how it works- You pick what form you want your Mexican, you pick your protein, you pick what else you want in it or not (ie rice, salsa, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, guac) and then you eat!
I was definitely excited to see carnitas! Stringy, soaked in juices, braised carnitas. There's also steak in large bite sized chunks, grilled chicken and barbacoa, which here is beef. I was unsure between the carnitas and barbacoa and was offered a small taste of each to decide. I stuck with my original carnitas order as the barbacoa was a bit spicier.
There's lots of salsa- mild pico de gallo with mostly tomatoes and onions, a corn salsa and two spicier salsas- red and green salsas- and you can have any combination of the salsa. The first time I went I got the mild and the corn salsa and the second time I asked for a little of the green salsa. There's also fresh guacamole, made with Haas avocados, which will cost NT$20 if you want it added in burrito. Everything is behind the counter, so there's no self serve salsa bar here, though the drinks are self serve and refillable.
The space is clean and casual with two floors and an open patio. Perfect for the summer days and nights and there's free wifi.
The burrito comes out to be a decent size. You can also add chips and a salsa and drink to your meal for an extra NT$29. The chips I had were better the second visit than the first, and definitely go great with the spicier green and red chile salsas.
The first time I went, by the time they put together my burrito, which wasn't very long, and I unwrapped it, the burrito was cold. Not even lukewarm, but cold to the touch. It was strange considering that they warmed up the tortillas on the grill, but I was more sensitive to it because the owner asked if he could reheat it for us (without us asking). Even after it was reheated, it was still only warm, not steaming hot, but I was pretty hungry so I wanted to eat it.
And my carnitas burrito tasted good! The rice soaked up the juices from the carnitas and salsas and the touches of cheese and guacamole made it taste like LA.
On my second visit, I told them I wanted a hot burrito and so the owner asked them to make it quicker and indeed it tasted much better hot.
I also had a bite of a chicken burrito bowl and the bite sized grilled chicken was tender and flavorful.
Many people will compare Oola to Chipotle, which is a good thing since there's basically no other place like it in Taipei. I've only been to Chipotle once, but the idea of casual place where you can pick up burritos is definitely needed here. The owners are quite enthusiastic and seem to be open to hearing what customers like and don't like, so you can't help but to root for them to succeed. They are from LA so I'd say that the flavors and style of the food here is more California Mexican than Tex Mex or sit down Mexican, but there's already places for that here. They are still going through some opening kinks, but I'm sure with time and feedback that they can work them out.
Some people will be missing the pinto and black beans and mexican rice, but I'm okay without it- they state that they are figuring out an affordable solution to bring it to the store. I'm also okay with the jasmine white rice, which they flavor with cilantro and lime, though I'd prefer Mexican rice. (Have I been here too long?) For those looking for spicier flavors, consider adding the spicier salsas to your dish, which have a great kick and flavor to them.
What do you think? Have you been waiting for burritos to come to Taipei and is Taipei ready for burritos?
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