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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anahuacalli - Take That Marguerita And Shove It

Anahuacalli has long been registered in the locals' minds as the go-to place in Paris for decent Mexican grub.  Bear in mind, that's not saying much, since Mexican restaurants in Paris mostly suck, and that's putting it gently, especially when they are labelled 'Tex Mex."  Avoid at all costs, trust me.  Getting back to Anahuacalli, don't get too excited - it sucks, too.

Which doesn't mean you can't have an enjoyable evening with good friends and significant other, which is exactly what Co. and I experienced about a month ago on a Friday night in February.  Hell, I've long learned that when you drink enough tequilla, you can have an enjoyable night anywhere, regardless of poor service and mediocre food, which basically describes what's in store at Anahuacalli.

This wasn't a first visit to said locale for yours truly.  I checked out the venue shortly after their opening, something like a good 20 years ago.  What I remember is somewhat above average Mexican cuisine and a futile effort on the part of our server to overcharge us on the wine.  So admittedly, I didn't have a very good attitude going into this, and that wasn't lessened when I called to reserve and basically had to rely on a series of grunts and coughs to make myself understood to someone who's French was even worse than mine, if that is possible.

At any rate, we received a warm welcome, and were placed at a choice corner table, perhaps in part due to the fact that our friends were periodic patrons.  On their part, you can't beat a decent margarita, and they sometimes got some decent ones at Anahuacalli - as in, hit or miss.  On this evening in question, it was a large swing and miss.  Not being a margarita drinker myself - unless pressed, lightly - I probably wouldn't be the best judge of quality, but when I saw my friends ordering side shots of tequilla to spice up their cocktails, the writing was on the wall.

On to the food.  On the table upon arrival was the obligatory bowl of nacho chips and, for once in a Parisian Mexican, they weren't overly salty and stale.  Our entree consisted of a shared combination platter for four, the "surtido de entradas."  This was a pretty good way to start off, consisting as it did of guacamole, taquitos. ceviche, nopalitos, and tostada de boeuf.  Decent, but unspectacular guacamole and an above-average ceviche.  Here's what it looked like:

Surtido de Entradas entree

It was all downhill from there.  It took so long for our main plates to arrive, I swear, at some point I just completely forgot I was sitting in a restaurant having a meal and just figured I was hanging out with friends over a few drinks.  Eventually, when one of my dinner companions politely inquired of our waitress whether the kitchen had closed and no one had bothered to inform us, she explained that it was the fish that I had ordered that took long to prepare. Of course I had to order this dish, on the basic premise that any food that is flambeed with tequilla must be truly excellent.  Unfortunately, 
when the fish dish arrived, I wondered how exactly all that time had been utilized, because there was absolutely nothing special about it - it was downright nothing to write home about - or wait for an eternity for, whichever comes first.

Pescada a la Veracruzana - wait forever to be disappointed

Meanwhile, Co. had a chance to dig into her assortment of pollo en salsa verde, cochinita pibil, barbacoa, and frijoles negra, which sounds pretty fancy until you hear Co. blurt out, 'Isnt' this the same thing I just ate for the entree?'

Tacos de la Merced - deja vu?

Our friends weren't much more satisfied with their dishes, enchiladas verdes and something else.  The bill, including a bottle of wine, a couple tequillas, and several margaritas, a couple of which were graciously comped in response to a negative review, somehow barely cracked the century mark (102 euros), which is some small solace. 

So the verdict is in - Anahuacalli offers a very nice ambiance to spend a long evening catching up with good friends, at a reasonable price, and assuming you don't pay much attention to the food and service. 

I remember a very good, genuine Mexican - or was it Guatemalan - on the corner of rues Rambuteau and Quincampoix that is now long gone.  Will somebody please open up another restaurant like that in Paris? And if it already exists, please tell me about it.

30 rue des Bernardins
75005 Paris
tel: 01 43 26 26 53
website: http://www.r-m-g.fr/uk/restaurant-gastronomique-mexicain-paris-site-officiel.php#restaurant-gastronomique-mexicain-anahuacalli-notre-dame-paris-5.php

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