JeJu

Mexican Oasis in the ‘Head

In food on 05/26/2011 at 8:58 pm

When guacamole looks this good, it’s gotta taste spectacular. Yes and yes. Eating the radish together with the guac adds a vegetal bitter crunch that is surprisingly pleasant. Unfortunately the chips are too thickly cut to be crisp, but it’s just a minor blip in an otherwise delicious menu in the hidden gem that is Taqueria Mexico in downtown Riverhead.

Hallelujah there’s hope for real food in the Hamptons! Albeit this one is tucked far away from the collective, it is a welcome respite from the high-priced and ultimately very unsatisfying grub we have been sampling. It’s a far cry from a horrific ‘Mexican dive’ we foolishly tried in East Hampton. The dishes here are balanced: light yet savory, hearty yet nutritious. And it doesn’t break the bank.

We hoped beyond hope when we saw more than one Mexican dive dotted amongst the storefronts on Main Street in Riverhead. A tip from a local grocer found us at a tiny strip mall further east at a small restaurant packed with natives at 8:30p on a weeknight. We ordered a slew of items from the exhausted proprietor who could barely keep his eyelids up.

The tacos (carnitas, longaniza, lengua) were solid, while the tamales were slightly devoid of any filling. They needed the mild green and red sauces readily available in squirt bottles. Longaniza is the Mexican version of chorizo, a spicy sausage dyed red with paprika. I prefer the Mexican style, which is crumblier and more balanced in terms of the spice combination.

Top to Bottom: Mamey (mild like avocado), Horchata and Guanabana (soursop – tastes like papaya) – Muy excelente!

I have a preference for green mole, but I sampled the red mole to make sure. Yep, while I can see the appeal of a smoky, slightly bitter, thick sauce, I personally will always order the lighter, spicy green, please. Another blip in the repertoire, mushy rice. It’s forgivable, just slightly unfortunate. The Puerto Ricans take more care in making savory rice and beans that are a meal in themselves.

Hidden underneath all the sauce are the most unctuous pulled chunks of pork shoulder, slowly roasted in the oven till fork tender. I tried to take an adequate picture, but before I could, they were all in my stomach already.

The standout so far on the vast menu is the tingas tostada, a spicy shredded chicken, basically a layered salad on top of a fried corn tortilla. A recipe I will try. This would be perfect for parties.

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