a/o August 2010
No. 7 on Lane 64, SongJiang Rd.,1F
kid friendliness: room for strollers
lasted visited: 7.29.2005
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!