We all love our local Italian, Chinese and Thai restaurants but I find it surprising that Mexican food hasn’t really taken off in Pakistan, even though it’s something that Pakistani palates would find quite similar to our own cuisine. Maybe it’s because the tortillas and salsa are too similar to our own roti and chutney. And why would anybody want a burrito when we can have good old paratha roll?
Another reason could be that it hasn’t been done right yet. So when Salsa opened up in F-7 a month ago, I was curious to see what it had to offer, particularly in terms of Mexican cuisine.
A little too much chilli was used in their dishes. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
From the diverse menu offerings, it seems Salsa is playing it safe instead of risking a one-track Mexican restaurant — another Mexican restaurant, Loco Amigos, in F-10 actually had pretty good food but it closed down within a few months. You can pretty much get everything under the sun at Salsa, including pizza, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, seafood, Thai, Pakistani, and last but not least, Mexican.
I thought they may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew and the chefs in the kitchen, which you can see into from the dining room through a window, looked like they were scrambling to get orders out in time. However, service was good and the restaurant was packed with families on a Friday night.
The décor is quite minimal, and a bit confusing, so there is not really an ambience to speak of. The walls are painted in beige with strips of brownish-maroon here and there. My best guess was that these strips were meant to be wood panels. But why? Here again, the lack of theme works against the restaurant.
As for the food, the Nachos Supreme had potential but they could do with some improvement. The corn chips were deliciously crispy but this appetiser would benefit from more salsa and sour cream and less of the melted cheese (which didn’t taste very nice) and unnecessary showering of lettuce on top.
The chicken fajitas, on the other hand, were quite good, but very spicy. It’s a huge serving of peppery grilled chicken, green bell peppers and onions, served with two tortillas, salsa and sour cream. The fiery red salsa full of chili seeds coupled with the peppery fajitas is not for the faint of heart though.
The salmon with coriander rub and lime cream was good as well though not as tangy as I had expected. I felt it ought to have had a bit more of a citrus flavour. A big thumbs-down for this dish however, was the Chinese-style egg-and-vegetable fried rice served with it.
The salsa steak in beef was served with grilled carrots and green beans with your choice of baked potato, mashed potato or French fries. The steak itself was slathered in the same standard flaming hot salsa we had been served with everything else. It’s safe to say steak is not their strong suit and if you are going to order a steak at Salsa then chicken is probably a better option.
It’s quite possible that other offerings on the menu at Salsa taste much better, but the Mexican food left me disappointed. The restaurant didn’t leave much of an impression on me and it’s not likely that I’ll go there again.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2013.
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