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Monday, 12 October 2009

London Restaurant Reviews - Wahaca


Wahaca

I was one of the 30 lucky Qypers, mostly food bloggers, who were invited to taste Wahaca’s new autumn menu at their Westfield branch.



Having experienced some disastrous meals at other Mexican restaurants in London, I had steered clear of this cuisine until now. I had never visited Wahaca before and was looking forward to the evening ahead.



I was truly impressed by the food I tasted, and feel now a growing curiosity to learn more about this type of cooking. Most impressive however, was meeting and dining with the founders Tommi (Thomasina Miers, winner of 2005 Masterchef), Mark Selby and his wife, the gorgeous Cecilia, who runs Wahaca’s blog. Their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of Mexican cuisine were contagious, and made our evening memorable.



We had a useful introduction by Tommi and Mark of the dishes that we would be tasting, and the three types of tequilas to accompany them. We started the evening with a lovely dish of “Smoked Herring Tostada” (£3.75) - shredded smoked herring in a Veracruzan sauce (made mainly of olive oil, capers, tomatoes, chillies and various herbs) on tortillas. I enjoyed this and felt that the fish and slightly tart sauce married well.



To follow, we had what I think was one of the best dishes of the evening – “Black Bean and Chicken Soup” (£6.75). Served with shredded chicken, diced avocado, feta cheese, cream, ancho chillies and totopo (a type of corn tortilla), these were topped by a creamy and rich soup of black beans. The contrasting combination of flavours and textures was a revelation despite the odd appearence, with the ancho chillies giving a spicy but sweet, almost chocolatey quality to the dish.



 

The “Huitlacoche Quesadillas” (£3.75) with corn, mushroom and cheese, were also good. Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on the ears of corn, it has a very pungent earthy flavour reminiscent of mushroom and corn. I could easily have a few of those with some cold beer.



Their “Winter Fuerza Salad” (£6.90) was next, a combination of roasted butternut squash, spelt, diced orange, ancho chillies, feta, avocado, and other ingredients. This was a hearty salad, combining two of my favourite salad ingredients – butternut squash & feta. I will certainly try this again.



To accompany the salad, we also had “Pork Pibil” (£3.75), a traditional Mexican slow roasted pork dish from Yucatan Peninsula, marinated in a lime based sauce and slow roasted in banana leaves. This was one of the highlights of the evening, the meat was succulent, sweet and tender.



Wahaca’s “Vegetable Pipian” (£7.75) was our next course. Pipian is a traditional “mole” type sauce used to accompany poultry. It is popular in the North East region of Mexico, consisting mostly of ground nuts, garlic, onions, chillies, and chocolate. Wahaca’s  vegetarian take was intriguing and bursting with flavours of fresh herbs and ground green pumpkin seeds. The addition of rice and mushrooms was a good alternative to the usual chicken. I loved the richness of this sauce soaked up by the fluffy rice and meaty mushrooms. This was a truly warming winter dish I look forward to trying again.



This was followed by “Baja-California Fish Tacos” (£7.75), crispy fried fish goujons with chipotle mayonnaise in a delicious tomato salsa served on large tacos. This was an easy going dish that anyone would struggle to fault but not particularly memorable in comparison to some of the other dishes.



The enchilada with “mole” (£8.75) was creamy and rich, and partnered well with the tender pieces of shredded chicken, rice and other ingredients. This was a meaty alternative to the earlier Vegetable Pipian; a sophisticated sauce with hints of chocolate, chillies, onions, and garlic.



Next on the list was the “Fish a la Veracruzana” (£9.95), a parcel of Pollock fillet slow cooked in a Veracruzan sauce  (made mainly of olive oil, capers, tomatoes, chillies and various herbs) and served with coriander rice. The accompanying fresh salsa was a nice addition to the green rice and fish.



The last of our main courses was the “Vegetable Burrito” (£6), made of toasted flour tortillas filled with coriander rice, and served with corn chips and tomato salsa.



For dessert we had a platter of hot, crispy “Churros y Chocolate” (£3.40). I remember having similar ones in Madrid, although there the hot chocolate was much denser. I found Wahaca’s particularly good and preferred the less glutinous texture of the rich hot chocolate. This was the perfect ending to a wonderful Mexican meal.
We also tasted three of their finest tequilas – a Blanco, a Reposado and an Añejo (aged version). They had distinct characteristics and were smooth and partnered well with the evening’s dishes.
It was a great event for which I would like to thank the organiser Chris from Qype, and Tommi, Mark & Cecilia for their kindness and hospitality. It was also a great pleasure to meet people whose blogs I had been inspired by: Su-Lin of Tamarind & Thyme and Mel and Kelsie from Travels with my Fork.

Verdict – Inspiring Mexican Street Food to share at reasonable prices. The management have a genuine understanding and passion for Mexican food which is reflected in the delicious dishes on offer. Highly recommended.

Wahaca on Urbanspoon

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