Wow, I can't believe that I didn't post about this. I think what happened was, I started to use it for an article for a certain online publication that did not post it, and I forgot that I never posted it on this here sorely neglected food blog. If you follow this blog regularly, you must think that we are stick figures...on the contrary. I feel like I just don't have enough time...I was too busy reclining on the couch all day yesterday...all day. I left the house once with the FP to get beer.
Anyhoo, about 2 months ago maybe, we went to TJ for a food excursion. This time we were going to hit up Zona Rio, which was said to have good restaurants.
So we walked down to the trolley station and went south. I kinda wrote down restaurants, addresses, and I had directions to zona rio in my mind. Walk on the near side of the river and take the third bridge or something. As soon as we got to TJ, when you go through the revolving fence thing, we saw 2 dogs just laying in the middle of the sidewalk. I love that! We were in Mexico. So then we were accosted by all the cab drivers. Taxi, taxi, taxi, take you on a tour, where you going, you needa taxi, taxi? So that was very annoying. Any desire for a taxi was dashed immediately. So we walked. We walked across the bridge we were not supposed to. But somehow we found the right street, and we walked. And walked. And it was sketchy. And I thought about how everyone is scared to go to TJ, and I was thinking how the Food Pimp's family would probably freak out if they knew. So we walked. We were in the run down area. Then we saw interesting restaurants...bbq and such. But it was pretty early, and we had this one restaurant I wanted to go to. So I kinda had a crappy map. The area we were in was off the map, so it was useless. I really felt like we were in another country. I tried not to stop in plain view and look at the map because taxis would slow down and beep. It's very nerve racking to hear the taxis every couple minutes. So it looked desolate. Lots of empty buildings. Then there was a Costco and a mall and stuff. So I knew it had to be the right direction because I read about a mall. And it was hot. We were both on the verge of jumping in a taxi, but not yet. So I kept track of the street numbers. But then I realized they were in no order. It went from like 266889 to 1838887! I was so frustrated!
Then we saw a kinda upscale Brazillian place! So we had to be near. It was hot though, and street numbers were useless. So finally, we relented. We jumped in a taxi. The guy didn't speak english of course. So I said the name of the restaurant, but no comprende - so I handed him the paper and pointed to the first place. No clue. He flagged someone down on the side of the street and asked. They said turn around, go that way...blah blah. So he drove up the street, and asked someone else. They said go that way. Then I saw it across the street. A half a block from where the cabbie had picked us up! So we handed him a five and jumped out. We walked up... and it was closed. Only open for dinner on Sundays. I don't know if I read the times right or if they changed.
So we didn't know what to do. I had names and addresses of places, but no map! If only we had an iphone! So there was this shopping center area behind Cien Anos, and I saw margarita on a sign - it looked a little like an upscale run of the mill mexican place. So we cut through to look at the restaurant. It looked open. Then on the right - saw Villa Saverios. It rang a bell. Sure enough, it was the restaurant on the bottom of my list! It was Mexican food with a Mediterranean spin. My last choice, but it had made the list and there we were. So it opened at 12. And it was 11:50. It looked dead inside. We stood outside for a bit, then we walked in. They said something in Spanish and then led us to a booth. This was a very large restaurant. It was decorated in this kinda cheesy older Italian restaurant theme style, but with expensive looking decor, except for some weird pieces that you would find at those bargain closeout stores - the one in New Orleans I would go to was called Stein Mart. And it was huge! There must have been at least a hundred seats in the main room, 30 - 40 in a side room, 30 - 40 in the bar, and then there might have been an upstairs area too. And there seemed to be a lot of staff.
So the waiter said something to us. I have no idea what. It's sad that I have been here for so many years and I know little Spanish still. He brought us water, and I tried to order a margarita. It never came. So I drank a lot of water because I was very thirsty. The FP didn't drink the water, even though he was parched. He was scared of Montezuma's revenge. We looked at the menu, and my mind was going crazy! It was too much to process. The Food Pimp got a Negro Modelo and I tried to order a margarita again. He seemed to understand me. So he was gone forever. I heard the blender going. I was worried. I wanted one on the rocks with fresh lime, but he was blending it. I hoped it wasn't one of those border ones made with bottled margarita mix! So finally he came back, and it looked beautiful!
And it tasted so fresh and refreshing and balanced and just yummy! Boy was I wrong!
They brought whipped butter and a bread basket with several different breads – focaccia, olive bread, and parmesan bread. These were delicious, very fresh and fragrant breads - all really good. And I have to say, I love whipped butter. It just is all the more yummy when it's been fluffed up!
So around this time, another couple came in. They wanted to go down to look at the wine cellar. Then they sat in the middle of the restaurant. Also from the US. I wonder if any locals go to this restaurant?
So after a bit of deliberation, we decided on some things.
This was a very delicious smoked marlin tiradito with a habanero and mango vinaigrette, avocado and radish, and crispy grilled flour tortilla. I've never had smoked marlin. I still have not had the smoked marlin tacos at Mariscos German. I know... what's wrong with me. One day I will. But this first dish was amazing! And this was the restaurant on the bottom of the list! It was fresh and beautiful and several flavors in my mouth! It was like in the movie ratatouille when he eats the cheese and the blackberry at the same time!
Second course - beef tongue cazuelita. I've never had such good tongue. Maybe the best tongue I've ever had. Tender braised meat in a luscious brown mole, with a smoky spicy emulsified salsa, minced onions and cilantro with fresh made corn tortillas. God, this was so good. It was like a mole, but very refined and delicately made. It doesn't make sense, but it did in my mouth!
Third course was earthy, rich oyster mushrooms with an olive and soft farm cheese mix and more crispy tortillas. This mushroom dish was very simple yet complex. Although the FP thought the cheese was totally unnecessary. It was strong, and it kind of did not match the mushrooms, but it wasn't bad together.
We had eaten all the bread at this point, so they brought us more.
This was a braised beef short rib and panela cheese appetizer topped with a tomato pico de gallo and fried tortilla strip salad. Ok, in another restaurant, this might be good. But in the context of what we had already eaten, this blew! The short ribs were strips cut off the bone... and it was just kinda a glorified Chili's dish. But we were kinda getting full anyway, so we weren't too worried that this dish didn't live up to the standards of the previous dishes. So after 2 or 3 negro modelos, one margarita and four upscale appetizers the bill was $47. Gotta love TJ! So we happily skipped out.
We were hoping to hit another restaurant on the way. I was keeping a look out for the cross street or the name of the restaurant, but we missed it. So we kept walking. We had already hit Hotel Lucerna, so we went in. We went to the courtyard, and it was like an oasis.
We went into the bar. There were TVs with football games on. The door to the courtyard was open and a cool breeze was blowing. It was perfect. The FP was so happy to be able to watch football. And I wanted to be kinda outside. So we had margaritas on the rocks. It didn't look as good as the one at the restaurant, but it still tasted really good. The bartender had a simple syrup bottle, but I guess he made fresh lime juice and put it in the bottle. That was one of those perfect moments that you can't recreate. The bartender was cool. He was working on being a party promoter. He wanted to eventually move to Puerto Vallerta, I think, but he was currently trying establish a rep in TJ first. He offered us some marinated spicy olives. They were in bloody mary mix. Yummy. The FP got another margarita with a better tequila. I'm not sure which one. But it was definitely better than the first. So then we left and were hoping to hit one more nice spot before getting back to the border.
But we didn't see any more cool places. And then we were back. We wanted one more drink and maybe food. So we had to settle for Nelson Restaurant. This was the first place we ever ate at in TJ. We really liked it back then, when just crossing the border and eating any cheap mexican food was a novelty. So we went in and sat at the bar. The whole place is so dirty. We were in two very lovely spots that were clean, that being in there was a culture shock. We had Negro Modelos. The FP wanted a seafood cocktail, which I thought was a weird choice, but I really didn't care. I have and iron stomach compared to him. So we got the small, thank god.
So I believe it was shrimp and octopus. And the marinade is like the bloody mary sauce, which I really like. I tasted a shrimp. It was okay. Then I tasted an octopus - not a big fan. It was...slimy. So I had a few more bite, but I didn't want to eat it. The FP pretty much ate around the octopus. I went to the bathroom, and it was cleaner than I remember, which isn't saying much. I went to the sink, and the water was shut off. There were rat turds on the counter behind the faucet!!! Ew! I could help but imagine big scary Tijuana rats, so I got out of there. There was a sink outside the bathroom that worked. I scrubbed my hands good, then I scrubbed the faucet with soap and rinsed it and scrubbed my hands again then turned it off. Does anyone else do that? Cause you don't want to wash then touch the dirty handle, right? So we got the fuck outta there and headed to the border.
On the way, we stopped and got 2 orders of churros. They were good, but they had been sitting for a while, so not as good as the freshly made ones. But I was happy. We ate them while we stood in line - the shortest line we ever had to wait in crossing back... maybe 30 - 40 minutes at the most? Anyway, it was a great day, whoever says that TJ sucks hasn't found the diamonds in the rough, the coffee beans in the civet poop, the mushrooms growing around the cow shit.