Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the hunt for Mexican food in Amsterdam

This week, an American friend of mine suggested that we try out a Mexican restaurant in Amsterdam. Now, I'm extremely cautious about mexican food (and hamburgers) in Europe. In general, they don't taste right. Either they substitute bad ingredients or they make concessions to the local taste (cucumbers instead of pickles on burgers?!?!, Whole wheat buns? ). My sad experience with trying "salsa" throughout the world has made me reluctant to eat it outside of North America. I try to make it a priority to eat Mexican food when I'm in the US - in NYC, in DC, in California - I'll try it in South Carolina but usually there I only want to drink margaritas and eat chips and salsa. Although with the influx of Mexicans into the state, I've heard rumors of "real"  taquerias in West Colombia that I've been on the hunt for.

Anyway, the restaurant that we went to is called "Tomatillo" and it was sold to me as "Exactly like Chipotles". Here's my review:

Looks: Tomatillo's operating model is just like Chipotle. The menu has the same options: burritos, soft tacos, chips and salsa and salads. You can get beer and wine but no margaritas. The tables are brushed metal with high stools and the decor is reminiscent with framed photos of latin america and an open kitchen. Very clean and nice. They play "lounge" music and they deliver.

Advantage: Tomatillo - the lack of margaritas is made up for by the fact that you can get it delivered to your house.

My meal:  I had a dos equis beer, chips and salsa and guacamole and a chicken fajita burrito.

The meat:
Now the best thing about Chipotle is their chicken. Their chicken is marinated in crack cocaine and is delicious - its salty and a bit spicy but not overwhelmingly tasting of one thing or another. its still a bit fatty but tender and juicy. I ate this chicken almost every day for two years.  At Tomatillo, there appeared to be cinammon in the marinade for the chicken in the chicken fajita burrito I had.  While I didn't mind it, it just added a "what's that flavor" to the chicken that I wasn't expecting. They claim its marinated in an adobo marinade.
Advantage: Chipotle

The burrito:
It was double wrapped in paper and tinfoil which helped because it was messy. It had beans, rice, meat, and veggies in there. I saw big roasted red peppers.  At Chipotle, the other thing I really like is that they use romaine lettuce instead of iceberg (although they are always super stingy with how much they give you) but I couldn't really tell what lettuce was in my Tomatillo burrito. I suspect it was iceberg.  The black beans were more soupy and less whole pure black beans than Chipotle and there was no option of pintos. but I like black beans so this was fine.
Advantage: Tied

The chips:
At Tomatillo ,the chips were actually made there on premises and crispy - tortilla chips are the biggest problems in the Netherlands... these were good but not salty enough. I love the Chipotle chips becaus they are thin and crispy and served in a paper bag.

Advantage: Tied

The Guacamole:
The Guacamole had too much lime in it and not enough chunks of Avocado. And it was WAY too expensive for the amount I got. At Chipotle, you get a giant scoop for 1.50 and I paid for a little to go souffle cup for 3.50 euros. but it was pretty good compared to most guac here.

Advantage: Chipotle

The beer:
They had a selection of Mexican beers - Dos Equis, Negro Modelo, and Corona and served it with a lime and without a glass, which I liked but they need to crank down the temperature of the cooler a bit since Mexican beer needs to be cold, in my opinion.

Advantage: Tied - the 'generic' alternative is Heineken at Tomatillo which is better than Bud.

The Salsa:
Now, for the most important part....the salsas. I ordered the Chipotle medium spicy salsa and the Habanero extremely spicy salsa... on a scale of spicy from 1-10 with 1 being tomato sauce from a can and 10 being biting a habanero pepper in Jamaica, I would give the Chipotle medium spicy a 4 and the Habanaero a 5. I didn't consider either to be spicy. The chipotle wasn't even as spicy as Old El Paso spicy taco sauce.  And they pureed their salsas which I normally don't like but I noticed a lovely looking pico de gallo on the serving board so next time I go back, I might try that.

Advantage: Chipotle

Overall grade: For Amsterdam, this is the best Mexican (Tex-Mex) that I've had. But as far as "just like Chipotles" - I would give it a B-. But I'm now sufficiently intrigued about how authentic it can get to Los Pilones and try their margaritas.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Loved this post, Sarah. Make no mistake--the hunt for good Mexican food is a serious and wise pursuit. Good luck!
I've had two experiences with Mexican food in SC that blew me away and sent me to Heaven. One was thanks to our friend Cassandra--that woman knows how to make enchilada sauce like it was meant to be made. I still crave it and haven't had any success in duplicating it. The other---I once had the number of a Mexican woman who is basically the caretaker/nanny/chef/one woman dynamo for a family of Texas transplants (here in Columbia) and she made incredible tamales and enchiladas verdes and charged way less than she should have. I've since lost her number and don't know her last name. What a fool I am. There is no great Mexican food in Columbia otherwise--in spite of what you may have heard. But I'll keep looking.