Do you know what my favorite food in the world is? Do you know the type of food that keeps me up at night – in quiet desperation as to where my next encounter with it will be? Well – it is Mexican food – simple-dimple good and tasty Mexican food. And my cravings can range from a huge variety of different types of taquitos (Hello al pastor tacos at Coyote – I really really miss you.) – to burritos – to chilaquiles verdes – to salsas & guacamole &fresh made tortilla chips – all the way to mole – mole – mole . . . anything with mole.
Now I am hungry.
One of my favorite things about Montclair is the great variety of food that we have the opportunity to eat. It is kind of like Epcot’s World Showcase – but with less fireworks and less country themed mice for me to run up to – so that I can get a photo with them. There are – in fact – so many restaurants around that if I run into a bad one . . . then I have no guilt at scratching it off of the list – because there is bound to be a better plate of food right around the corner.
How was that for a set-up?
When we first got to town – and did some exploring – Tinga (215 Bellevue Ave Montclair, NJ 07043 (973) 509-8226) really stood out because of it’s nice design, bright colors and the fact that at the time – it was the only Mexican place around. (Now there is Mexicali Rose – but that is for another day.) We went in – and I felt like it was all so well done – that they must be angling to eventually franchise the name and style out. Then the food came . . . and a bland reality malaise overtook me with a ferocious quickness. I had ordered the “Classic Chicken Burrito,” and while everything did seem fresh, there was just no flavor. I salted and hot sauced and then quizzically stared at my dish the way that Irving Brown Socks will turn his head and stare at a piece of peach before rolling around on it. I knew that there was something in front of me that I could ingest – but I just couldn’t bring myself to take another bite. So after eating just enough to make it so that I didn’t feel like the day had been a total waste – I skulked out. I would live to fight another day.
After 8 months or so – I decided that it was time to jump back into the fray. We sat outside and it was pretty busy. I was amazed at how many people stopped the main waiter and had cheery conversations with him. People love this place! I thought. Certainly I had just come in on a rough day . . . even the best restaurant can have a down day – right?
I ordered the “Chicken Fajita in a Burrito” – because I wanted to keep it in the same family as my last meal – to see what would happen. The salsa and chips came out and immediately I was nervously staring at the ghost of lack of tastes past. The chips were fine. The salsa was fresh . . . it just had no flavor. I was hungry and was getting both fidgety and antsy. What kind of food was on it’s way out?
Well – sadly – it was evidently the kind of food that dripped while it was being carried out. Wait . . . dripped?! Was it dripping with goodness? No. It was dripping with a clear liquid that has no business near a chicken fajita burrito . . . it was waterlogged. I poked the burrito with my fork and took a bite. It was strangely watery and almost as if it was being bland for bland’s sake. As I said – I was starving – so I focused on the black beans and rice – and they were fine. They even had pickled jalapeno peppers that made me smile through my consternation at the waterrito that was on my plate.
All that I can figure – and this is a total guess – is that the chicken and the fajita fixings and then eventually the whole thing were all steamed to within an inch of their life. That would account for both the water and the lack of flavor . . . Maybe all of the water washed all of the flavor away?
I should make a quick note to let you know that my most pregnant dinner companion – who is eating for two – ordered a virgin frozen drink and an “Spinach Enchilada Platter” – I will only comment on her meal as far as to say that the drink never came and at the end of the night – her plate was still pretty full of food. Boo.
The waiter asked if we wanted the leftovers wrapped up. When I said “No thanks.” He then noticed that I had only taken a couple of bites out of my burrito – and so – he asked if there there was anything wrong. Normally – I try not to say anything – because I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy the food – it’s like I am breaking up with the food – and I will start to babble things like “No – it is me. There is clearly something wrong with me . . .” just to try to get out of the situation as quickly as I can . . . But this time I couldn’t help it . I moved my soggy lump to show the all of the water and just said “There was just all of this water . . .”
He took the plate – and after a bit came back and asked if – because the food didn’t work out so well . . . would I like something else. By that point – though – I was done. We had been there too long and I needed to run away so that I could live to try again in another 8 months or so. And that is just the thing. I am a captive audience. I am desperate for this restaurant relationship to work out . . . Otherwise I am stuck with the adventure of rooting out authentic taquerias in Patterson (which I don’t entirely mind) or the assembly line tomfoolery that are Chipotle and the up and coming Moe’s Southwest Grill that is soon to arrive on route 3 (852 Rt. 3 West, Suite 244).
I guess that there are still the tacos and nachos that I could give a shot . . . I mean – who’s ever heard of steamed nachos . . . uhm . . . right??