Tag Archives: margaritas

Zapoteca—Upscale Mexican and Margaritas Served Straight Up

29 Nov

I was finally afforded the opportunity to eat at Zapoteca recently, due to a double-date night with Ben and Laura and a sweet Living Social deal (paid $25 to get $50 worth of food). We strolled down to their Fore Street location after imbibing a bit at Ben and Laura’s casa.

The valet attendant opened the door for us. I was glad we walked, because $6 valet parking hardly seemed like a good deal to me. Being the cheapskate that I am I probably would have driven circles causing us to miss our reservation instead. But I digress, because the minute we walked in the lively atmosphere took over. Bartenders were shaking up every kind of margarita imaginable. The smells from the kitchen were as spicy as the name of the restaurant itself rolling off my tongue. Zapoteca is no place to eschew in the vibrant Portland food scene.

We arrived promptly at eight o’clock for our reservation. We were told our table would be a few minutes, so we cozied up next to the bar to check out the cocktail menu. Just as we were about to order we were directed to our table through the back open kitchen area. I loved the concept and I could see everyone working and garnishing the plates. It was a perfectly beautiful, clean, and organized space.

When we were seated our waitress came right over to take our drink order. I decided on the Blood Orange Margarita, Ben got the Guava Margarita, Laura decided on the Pomegranate Margarita, and Mark (not one to drink Tequila) tried the La Rumba—a drink made with rum that was reminiscent of a mojito. We also put in for the Ceviche Trio, which consisted of one made with whitefish in a tangy lime juice with jalapeños; one made with huge chunks of lobster marinating in a grapefruit salsa; one shrimp and calamari ceviche made with lime, orange and chili habanero. Each came served in a martini glasses with tortilla chips on the side. I thought the whitefish one was by far the best, but the lobster ceviche was a huge hit with the rest of the gang.

Drinks at Zapoteca

Ceviche Trio

They were all delicious, but there weren’t nearly enough tortillas for four people and the large amount of ceviche.

We also had the steamed mussels with chorizo. They were in a rich sauce, and while the mussels weren’t of the freshest quality, the sauce made up for it.

It was then time to order our entrées. Laura decided to go with the Enchilada Suizas de Pollo. This was a beautiful plate of wood roasted enchiladas with local Jack cheese and topped with fire-roasted tomatilla sauce, black beans and guajillo salad.

Enchilada Suizas de Pollo

She loved the dish, but thought it needed some extra spice, so she sent our waitress for some house made ghost pepper hot sauce. After tasting it, she claimed it wasn’t even that hot (though we all know ghost peppers are the hottest in the world). Her maiden name is Hernandez, so she joked that she was born to handle the heat. My background is French, so I didn’t even attempt that madness.

Ben ordered the Carnitas De Puerco. Those were made with locally raised pork shoulder and topped with a tomato chile sauce with black beans, salad, and grilled tortillas on the side.

Carnitas De Puerco

That block of pork looked absolutely amazing. I snuck a taste while Ben ate away. He was three-quarters of the way done before he realized he was eating it without the tortillas. He didn’t seem to mind, as it was perfect with, or without, them.

My husband, ever the beef lover, just had to try the Ancho Filete Con Champiñones. Locally grass-fed beef (his main weakness in life), chipotle sauce, and queso blanco harkened him to a gastronomic state of zen rarely able to be achieved in such a boisterous atmosphere. Topped off with some “perfectly cooked” asparagus and garlic cheddar chipotle mashed potatoes and you had one happy man.

Ancho Filete Con Champiñones

I was having the absolute worst time deciding what to have. So many items just sounded too good to pass up, but I finally decided on the Relleno De Puerco. It was an absolutely amazing fire-roasted poblano pepper filled with chorizo and pork, then topped with queso fresco and tomato habanero sauce with black beans on the side.

Relleno De Puerco

It was absolutely wonderful. The habanero sauce on top was quite spicy, but nothing a margarita or two couldn’t solve. The roasted pepper was cooked to perfection and I was very impressed with the quality of all the ingredients. I would definitely eat the dish again and would recommend it to anyone who has an obsession with relleno, because I have a semi-serious one and it was more than I even hoped it would be.

I don’t think Zapoteca is trying to give the impression that it’s authentic Mexican food, but the inspiration is quite fantastic. I think for an upscale Latin American food experience it hits a home run. They have a wide variety of menu choices (only one vegetarian option though…) and their drink menu is inventive to boot. The only complaint I have is that many of the dishes were quite salty (not to the immediate taste, but an after effect was felt later that night and next day). I simply could not drink enough water to quench my thirst for the next 24-hours. It was overall an excellent dining experience in Portland and I really just can’t wait to go back and taste some more of their menu items—I’m  definitely thinking enchiladas next time.

Zapoteca Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Ladies’ Night goes South of the Border at El Rayo

8 Nov

Nothing says the weekend like margaritas and a Girls’ Night Out. Friday night I stepped out with some very lovely ladies to eat, drink, and (salsa) dance the Portland night away.

We started our evening at El Rayo Taqueria. I had eaten there once with Mark over a year ago and we hadn’t been overly impressed. My friend Bitzy is a fiend for their fish burrito and begged me to reconsider trying the restaurant again because a) she didn’t think I gave it a fair shot and b) she obviously had an intense fish burrito craving. I decided it was time that I gave it another shot. After all, maybe I just had a bad meal there.

We strolled in at seven o’clock, and literally walked in at the perfect time. The place erupted with business about 5 minutes later. We only had to wait about 15 minutes amongst the intensely bright and overdone (and also somewhat cheesy) décor. It was just long enough for everyone to get a drink. Bitzy and Laura love tequila so it was all Margaritaville for them. Alicia decided on the Rosa Limonada, a vodka drink, since she isn’t a tequila girl. I, being a lover of all things mojito, decided to give El Rayo’s version a test drive. It was very well done— quite strong with just the right amount of mint. The only complaint I have is the price. For $8.95 it could have been about two or three times the size. I switched to beer after I finished it for fear of going broke.

We sat down and ordered some chips, salsa, and guacamole as an appetizer for the table. Everyone agreed that the guacamole was great, though nothing like “authentic” versions I have had in other Mexican restaurants. It was not creamy and there was a lot of cilantro. I like it when guacamole can stand more freely without all of the extras, so overall, while this was good, it wasn’t great in my opinion. The salsa, however, was stellar. I could tell it was made in-house and I appreciated the fresh taste and slight “kick” that it provided.

Chips, salsa and guac

When it was time to order Bitzy went straight for her Yucatan burrito. It has fried fish (haddock perhaps?), coleslaw, avocado, rice and chipotle mayo. She said she’s has better versions of the same on other occasions, but overall I could tell she was overjoyed to be eating it. I tasted it as well, and it was delicious.

Her love for the Yucatan Burrito knows no bounds

Laura had never tried the tacos there so she ordered three different varieties to see what they might be about. Since she usually orders a burrito when she goes, she felt change might be a good thing. She ordered one frijoles (black beans, cheese, pico and lettuce), an Al Pastor (slow braised pork with pineapple salsa and shredded lettuce) and a pulled pork (topped with cotija cheese and lettuce). The frijole and pulled pork tacos were her favorite. She said the Al Pastor was very dry and lacking flavor. I must say though, from the looks of the tacos El Rayo is on the right track. They doubled up on the tortillas to avoid soggy breaking (everyone hates that, right?) and the accompaniments were minimal. After all, tacos are meant to be simple Mexican street food. I think next time she goes back she’ll be back on the burrito bandwagon.

A taco trio—Frijole, Al Pastor, and Pulled Pork

Alicia decided to get the Carnitas burrito with pulled pork, caramelized onions and a ranchero sauce. She was happy with her choice, and though I didn’t try it, it looked absolutely delicious. I would probably give it a try if I go back another time.

I decided to order the enchiladas that were on the specials menu for that evening. Pork enchiladas with cheese and onions covered in with red sauce served with black beans and rice on the side. The pork in it was excellent—tender and flavorful. The red enchilada sauce left a lot to be desired though. It was practically non-existent and what little was put on top had already soaked into the tortilla. I was definitely disappointed.

Pork Enchiladas

All in all, it was a good start to a fun night. While not my favorite place to get burritos, tacos or enchiladas in Portland I don’t think that it’s terrible. I can’t put my finger on exactly what is lacking there for me, but if a friend wanted to go have a causal dinner there again, I would certainly go. I would not, however, get the enchiladas ever again. The quality of the pork was good, so it gives me hope if I decide to go back sometime and try a pork dish another time around. I just don’t think I’ll be knocking down their door anytime soon though. I apologize profusely to Bitzy and other El Rayo frequenters, but it’s just not my jar of salsa kids.

Next stop? Taco Escobarr?

El Rayo Taqueria on Urbanspoon

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