Escondite (Addr: 1206 Union Ave, Montreal; Phone: 514-419-9755; URL: http://www.escondite.ca) is a popular tacos and tequila bar revisiting some staples of tex mex cuisine , adding their own twists such as the El general Chapo dish, which is their mexican take on the general Tao or combining familiar local ingredients such as the maple syrup with ingredients typically found in Mexican food, or, to take another example, by adding Mexican twists to some local staples.
Mexican food as well as its Tex Mex Americanized rendition is not unfamiliar to most of us, North Americans. Mexico being one neighbor we tend to visit when trying to escape our harsh winter. So, this is food of which most of us know what to expect. I am talking about realisitic expectations – For eg, I do not expect Mexican food outside of Mexico to taste exactly the same as in Mexico as, obviously … the tacos were not made with the exact same water, flour, their fillings not with meats coming from the exact same purveyors. The diners are not the same neither, therefore not opened to the same depth of flavors. I doubt that diners outside of Mexico are ready to feast on some of the bold flavors found in Mexico or on some chapolines anytime soon. That is why I refrain from comparing Mexican food in Mexico to its incarnations abroad. It would be nonsensical.
On this evening, I ordered:
Their fish tacos (All their tacos are served as a pair of soft tacos made of 6 inches snack flour tortillas for $8) are made of battered deep-fried cod, a cream of avocado (in place of the common white creamy sauce that is usually found in baja-style tacos — which these tacos took their inspiration from) and cabbage slaw. I prefer this simple combination of ingredients in my tacos to the overhelming display of ingredients that can sometimes be found with fish tacos elsewhere. The battered deep-fried cod featuring a delicate crisp. Although I tend to prefer the bold and rustic flavors of some traditional tacos, I have to admit that Escondite’s refined fish tacos were still very enjoyable 7/10
–Al pastor soft tacos, pork belly al pastor, grilled pineapple, onions. They use quality ingredients and that was key to this taco as, to take an example, their pork was of better quality than at your average taqueria. They have marinated the pork belly exquisitely well. 8/10
–Guacamole: prior to my meal, while reading the online reviews on Escondite, I found that their guacamole is praised by some as the best guacamole they ever had, others finding it lacking in terms of seasoning. This one I was having was judiciously seasoned, the avocado perfectly ripe (essential for a good guacamole), the splash of acidity coming from the lime not overwhelming at all (the mistake you do not want to make with a guacamole) and yet vivid / exciting on the palate. 8/10
-e steak koreano & nopal – sirloin, oaxaca cheese, grilled cactus, pickled jàlapeno, spicy orange crush crema- this had a complexity of flavors that were very exciting. This as well as the el pastor taco are my preferred bites at Escondite. 8/10
-la tinga (tomato and chipotle chicken, queso oaxaca, lime crema , lettuce) hard shell tacos were the least interesting of the tacos I have tried as the flavors did nothing for me, and the hard texture of a tortilla is something I can live without 6/10
-Quesadillas ($14) were as tasty as you would expect from good quality melting cheese (oaxaca and cheddar, in this case) in flour tortillas. black truffle paste and mushrooms were added for complexity. Oaxaca and cheddar were thoughtful and stood as the right choice of cheeses for the quesadillas. 7/10
-Nachos 2.0 ($12) – Gyozas au monterey Jack, jalapeno, pico de gallo aux grenades, guacamole, queso fresco, crema au poivre noir (black pepper crema). Gyoza nachos are nachos shaped like dumplings. Rustic, in presentation, rather than sophisticated but that is normal for taqueria food. The mild flavor of the monterey jack cheese complimenting well the guacamole and salsa fresca laid atop the nachos. The enticing blend of flavors perpetuated with the addition of the queso fresco and black pepper crema. This was a highlight for me. 8/10
-Pepper/Cinammon coated churros – There are many types of churros around the globe, therefore the suggestion that one churro is superior to another one is generally a misconception as it is more likely a matter of personal preference (talking about preference, I prefer the churros that are simply coated in sugar to the ones that are filled with either chocolate or dulce de leche – Escondite’s are of the coated sort ) … unless, of course, your churro is carbonized or drowning in a pool of oil. I have heard great things about Escondite’s long ridged donuts, but they were flawed on this evening: they were surprisingly dry and hard in texture and consistency instead of boasting a nice crunchy exterior. I wish I could tell you about the interior, which — regardless of the type of churros — is expected to be soft, but the churros I was having in this evening were way too thin, making the interior so tiny that it would be hard to describe to human eye. It is not hard to find far better freshly made churros than these in Montreal 5/10
The cocktails (I took a cafe/tequila as well as a mezcla based cocktail) I had on this evening were all memorable.