Friday, November 2, 2007

Day of the Dead

Since yesterday was the Day of the Dead, we decided to go out in search of Mexican food. We recently learned that a place called Kartoplyana Khata (Potato House), with its cigar-store Indian logo, was supposedly a Mexican restaurant. Who knew? So, we decided to check it out. The restaurant's website explains that its food is Tex-Mex, adapted for local tastes. Ukrainian Tex-Mex is not the best fusion cuisine. Although we avoided anything with mayonnaise or dill, staples of the Ukrainian kitchen, there is little about this food that anyone would consider Mexican.

We saw this local chain many times during our walks about town; one of the storefronts is about three blocks away. Although it was decorated inside with Native American kitsch - more cigar-store Indians and many offensively stereotypical Native American pictures and menu items - Potato House unfortunately had nothing resembling an Indian taco (or for that matter, any sort of taco). No tacos, no enchiladas, no tamales, no nachos, no quesadillas, no botanas, no tostadas (need we go on?), and of course, no margaritas. One of the few items on the menu was burritos. Great! We would have those. No, they were out. So, we ordered the chili con carne and the "torba" steak with Mexican sauce. We also ordered some cream of mushroom soup (no, there was no menudo, either) and a bowl of fruit salad for Carter.

Of course, the mediocre mushroom soup had nothing to do with Mexico. What was called chili con carne bore no resemblance to anything Mexican whatsoever except that it contained kidney beans. It was a tomato and broth-based soup with two pieces of pork, beans, some red pepper, onions, and some inexplicable little flavorless white lines. The steak was actually a pork cutlet coated in some spices. It was tasty, although not the least bit Mexican. It was coated with flavorless little balls that looked like, but could not possibly be, mustard seed. Potato House recommends that you accompany steaks with sauce. Passing on such options as apricot, we chose the "Mexican" sauce. If you imagine ketchup, with a lot of sugar and some kidney beans, corn, and red peppers, that would be the sauce. It was barely edible. Of course, we could have ordered potatoes au gratin or one of the many blini served there, but we were trying to get something resembling Mexican. Potato House will make us appreciate Tortas Jalisco and El Mezcal that much more upon our return!

1 comment:

Lea's Dad said...

Sounds like something Mr Potato Head, that ages old game, may have thought was Mexican. But alas, certainly no Mexican or Tex-Mex person I know would have thought so. Are you sure it was not a transplant of Bill Knapps?

It certainly shows how eating something supposedly from another country's cuisine ratres a question mark in Europe. Even pizza is often a strange reinterpretation, but at least one can choose toppings, even if they might be dill pickle chips.