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Richmond - El Tapatio – Molcajete & Chabela


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Richmond - El Tapatio – Molcajete & Chabela

rworange | Jun 30, 2006 09:07 AM

El Tapatio has a pretty standard Mexican menu, but the specialty is the Molcajete.

The English menu description was steak, chicken, pork, nopal, chorizo, green onions and cheese. It is served in a large heavy bowl with three legs made of volcanic rock called a mocajete.

There is NO English spoken here. The customers in the restaurant at the time couldn’t’ speak English. So I thought the meat was a choice. I ask about the meat, and she goes on until she comes to pork ... yeah, I say I want pork.

She must think I’m some sort of idiot because it wasn’t a choice of meats, but ALL the meats. So what was she thinking when I said pork enthusiastically ... that I was happy pork was in it?

Two chewy large thin steaks were draped over one side and a charred paddle-like piece of cactus hung over the other side like it was trying to escape.

In the center was pieces of pork and chicken in a mild, fresh, red sauce. Grilled green onions and fresh cilantro garnished the dish. A large piece of white cheese and a fiery red-colored but mild chorizo link split in half topped the bowl Don’t know the type of cheese but it didn’t melt.

The only other time I had molcajete that I remember was in the San Diego area where the stew-y ingredients were bubbly hot. This wasn’t as good as that but it was tasty and satisfying.

The couple at the next table ordered this so watching them gave me an idea of how to eat it ... take a hot tortilla, put a little of the ingredients in, top with a little salsa and eat.

This is a dish for two though, so I took some home. Yeah, asking for a take-out container was a joy ... para llevar ... take out ... the first new phrase I learned working in Mexico. I’m going to take Roberto more seriously when he corrects my Spanish. I was practically the queen of mime in El Tapatio.

IMO, it is not a top class version like the first time I ate this dish, but it was tasty. The meat a little chewy but good.

There was a little dish of soupy beans with lots of cheese that were good. Salsa with chips was served first. Excellent red salsa with a few small pieces of nopale. The problem is that the chips were stale. I wanted to eat that salsa, but the chip would ruin it.

They also had chabela on the menu, from what I read, a bloody Mary type of drink but with beer, clamato and ... shrimp. I didn’t know what it was and didn’t order it. Here’s my question about it on the general board.

When I first moved to this area a while back, I really liked the food on my two visits, especially the deep-fried hard shell taco, but on the second visit, EVERYTHING went wrong that could in a restaurant and I thought it would be unlikely that I’d return.

At that time it was the oddest looking restaurant, sort of like the Bedrock Drive-In from the Flintstones. Then construction started. A taco truck type of kitchen was attachd to the building. It is open 24/7. Then, while remaining open, the whole place is in the process of being redone.

It is nice but everything is faux terra cotta. The paneling is dyed plywood. There are rosewood-red chairs. However, that fake décor was actually done a lot in the area where I worked in Mexico, so it made the place seem more authentic.

No one speaks English. How authentic is that?

I thought maybe ownership changed, so I gave it another chance. Given the language barrier. Didn’t ask. Things went fine this time.

The plates are hearty. The burritos HUGE and the tortilla nicely grilled with char marks on the outside. The man next to me was really enjoying his. On his first bite he closed his eyes and moved his head silently from side to side like when you go mmmm ... mmmm ... mmmm.

Jonathan Kauffman did a review of taco trucks on 23rd and included El Tapatio. It is funny but almost everything in the review that might be negative, it looks like they fixed, right down to re-doing the look of the place. This link says there is no entertainment and now two tvs are playing the Mexican channel. Great soap opera while I was there. Loved when the bull went after this couple having a picnic in a pasture.

El Tapatio

910 23rd St.
Richmond, CA


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