Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Disappointment.

Cristan's Tacos #3
1401 West Hildebrand
(just west of Interstate 10)
Cristan's Tacos on Urbanspoon

When I first started working downtown, years ago, I would commute on San Pedro. (This was before I discovered that Flores Street, two blocks west, had almost no traffic on it, and almost no traffic signals.) One of the places I enjoyed stopping occasionally for breakfast tacos was Cristan's, at the corner of Euclid Street. 

I had those pleasant memories in mind when Rick and I stopped at the Cristan's location on West Hildebrand (in furtherance of my plan to review all 26 restaurants in what I call the Hildebrand Corridor). The parking lot was an encouraging sign, being nearly full an hour before noon.

The dining room is a square with about 16 tables set for four people, and most of them were occupied. Taking a place in the back, we observed that the high noise level in the place had the same kind of cheeriness to it that we had previously noted at El Rafas, a competing restaurant a couple of blocks further down the street. Nowhere near the excessive, unpleasant, stressful, anxiety-inducing cacaphony of Rosario's or, even worse, Lüke; just a pleasingly loud room full of groups of people talking amongst themselves. No one had to shout to be heard.

Our waitress was with us quickly, to deliver menus and take our drink order; she was back fairly soon with water and coffee to take our food order. (I thought the coffee was pretty good, with a slight nutty flavour; Rick thought it was a little bitter.) Then she was back with surprising speed to deliver said food, as though they had only to move the food from one place to another. The only previous experience I've had with such culinary rapidity was when the cooks in the back didn't bother to cook the food thoroughly. That was not the case here, so I suspect that, in the kitchen at Cristan's, they have all the ingredients necessary for Tex-Mex food already cooked and awaiting only assembly. Well, if that's the case, they manage it admirably.

Last city inspection: January 2012
17 demerits
The fillings in all our tacos were good, and Rick was particularly pleased with the quality of the flour tortillas used in his tacos. The beef fajitas were cooked to the point of having a desirable crispiness about the edges, and the seasonings were done as they should be. The picadillo was moist but not greasy, and the garnish of lettuce and tomato was fresh.

I had my usual order of one machacado taco, and one chilaquile taco, both in corn tortillas. At Cristan's, both these fillings are offered plain or a la mexicana, meaning with a bandera of peppers, onions and tomatoes. Cheese is a separate option, apparently, and according to the menu all these choices involve additional expense. The fillings were cooked right, with just a little grease remaining, and the flavours were good. The corn tortillas, however, were substandard for restaurants in this city. I would not be surprised to find a plastic vendor bag of 100 corn tortillas on the counter in the kitchen, because unlike in all the other Tex-Mex places that make their own tacos, these were of uniform thickness, perfectly round and with machined edges, and they had a texture that testified against freshness. They were unable to contain the fillings, and fell apart quickly, just like store-bought corn tortillas do at home.

As I said, Cristan's charges extra for things that other restaurants include for the regular price; and Cristan's prices, even without all those "extras," are already on the high side, compared to other local taquerías. When you add the charge for the bandera and the cheese, you take your breakfast tacos out of the realm of good, cheap eats. Our bill this morning at Cristan's was (even deducting for the extra taco that Rick, unusually, ordered) was a good 25% more than what we would expect to pay locally, even for food of this quality.

That was the real disappointment.

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy to see that somebody's watching the pennies. It's not a lot of money, but it can sure add up if you eat out much. And who doesnt these days.


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