Well, I thought I'd pass on my recent visit to an 'authentic' Mexican restaurant in St. Augustine, FL.
I must confess, I love good Mexican food. It shouldn't be fiery hot of it's own accord, like Tex-Mex in Texas is. My thoughts about this is that they only use absolute heat to cover a poor recipe and preparation. If I want it hotter, I always ask for some Salsa mas Picante, a concoction usually made in the kitchen by the cook by some semi-secret recipe involving roasting chilis and adding garlic and onion. A delightful picker-upper. If it's real good, I'll spoon it over everything on the platter, and damn the consequences I'll endure later.
But, to me, good Mexican food is flavorful, spicy, but not scorching. It will leave your tongue intact, but tickle your taste buds with knowledge of possible disaster. My favorite dish is a chicken enchilada, a tamale, and a chili relleno. With rice and beans, of course. All this accompanied with a cold Negro Modello, and preceded by a fresh pico de gallo (preferably) or a salsa and tortilla chips.
At this particular establishment, the chips and salsa were acceptable, although the salsa was a bit sweet. It lacked any real 'bite'. The beer I ordered was good and icy cold, but delivered sans glass. I had to ask for a one. It came with a lime wedge implanted into the bottle, a practice I find deplorable, a truly gringo contrivance.
I ordered lightly, an enchilada, taco and chili relleno. The waitress was loath to change anything on the menu, it seemed that they were hard wired to the menu as it was. There was no chicken enchilada available with a relleno, it seemed. So, I settled for a beef enchilada.
When the main course arrived, it came on two dishes. One contained a beef taco, the larger an enchilada and a pile of what appeared to be hamburger smothered in Velveeta cheese sauce. I asked the waitress what the pile of stuff was, and she said it was a chili relleno.
"I don't believe so. A chili relleno is a work of art. A poblano pepper, seeded, stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese or a savory Mexican cheese, dipped in an egg batter and lightly fried, producing a wonderous fluffy and tangy treat, then covered with a mild red sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese. This resembles something the dog would ralph up," I soliloquized.
"Oh. Well we make them like this. We put a pepper on the plate, add meat, and cover it in cheese," she said, turning and walking away.
My friend told me to send it back. I replied it would do no good, as they obviously hadn't a clue about 'authentic' food. And, being as it had been 16 hours since I had eaten, I decided to eat the mess anyway. The 'enchilada' was simply a corn tortilla stuffed with hamburger, then covered in a white cheese sauce, very sweet at that. The taco was comparable to Taco Bell. I never did find evidence of a 'pepper' under the pile of soggy hamburger that comprised the relleno. The best part of the meal was the Negro Modelo.