February 14, 2009
One of the must-go-to places in Pampanga is Zapata's. A very famous Mexican restaurant and one of the premier parts of our mini food tour. When we were there, the place was PACKED! There were no reservations and the line we made was based on honesty and not system. The servers were really few in ratio with the customers and orders were a bit slow to come out. This was when we thought that coming here might be one big failure.
We got to get a seat that we literally forced ourselves into. Note to self: Sometimes people go to the comfort room and that doesn't mean you can get their table. Sorry about that. Anyway, he was nice enough to give us the table inspite of it all which was cool of him.
We started of with (according to some bloggers) a must-order in Zapata's: Irish Fries. The fries were consistently fried and of ample size. They had a crispy exterior but it was not dry because of the chili topping over it. The oily fries blended well with the tangy/meaty sauce. There was also a cheese sauce that added moisture and a salty/creamy flavor to the dish. This surely beats the fries/fries toppings they serve in places like Chilis or Burgoo. This had a more authentic feel to it.
Since it was almost 1pm when we got to the restaurant, we decided in sharing on a combo meal that they had of Chili, Tacos, Beef and Bean Burrito, and Mexican Rice instead of ordering a dish for each one of us. The combo was also served with a complimentary bowl of Mayan Bean Soup:
The Mayan Bean Soup was an acquired taste. It tasted completely like beans. Frankly, I didn't like it as a soup since it was too thick and grainy to the tongue. The flavor though was excellent. I mean if it were a sort of bean dip or something, we would've seen it in a more positive light. It reminded me somewhat of guacamole and how at first you'd think it was weird putting avocados together with your nachos only to realize how magical that combination is. The bean soup was like this, weird if you think about it and have it on its own. But I think it would be amazing over nachos. We will try that next time.
The combo meal was really filling. It was a very good decision to get it to share instead of ordering one for each of us. The tacos was my favorite of the dish. The flavor was very authentic and my favorite part was the cheddar cheese gratings in it. I just love good cheddar cheese! The taco was really good but I should have ordered the Fish Tacos instead since it was something that I hadn't tried yet. The Beef and Bean Burrito was more bean than beef which was not really that good for me. I was expecting a more flavorful and meaty meal but it was completely the opposite. I've had better Burritos (like in Mexicali) than this. I'm hoping to try the à la carte version next time to see if it's any better than the one included in the combo. The Mexican Rice was nice. It was cooked with cumin which made it taste Mexican. If only they had chopped some cilantro and topped/mixed it with the rice, I think that it would have been better. Nonetheless, the rice was really great topped with some of the chili to counteract the carbohydrate's bland taste. The combo meal in general was just ok for me. Very filling but very bland.
Lastly, the Chili! Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, I would always order this. This and a few drops of Tabasco sauce over it is definitely my kind of comfort food. I've tried pretty good ones like the one that Chili's serves but I've never tasted one this accurate. I think their secret was with the ingredients and holding period. Very fresh ingredients/herbs were used and the holding time from boiler to bowl was obviously very short. Good thing also that we arrived for lunch so the chili batch was much newer compared to the dinner batch.
Zapata's wasn't that extraordinary as we had hoped but far more authentic than any Mexican restaurant wannabe. Ambiance was real, food average, but I will definitely go back to try more of their other dishes that I didn't get the chance to sample. I hope that they truly blow my mind then. Until then, I just have to settle with tacos in Shoppesville/Theatermall (best!) and an overpriced Chili's restaurant for my Mexican fixation.
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