Monday, December 19, 2011
Taqueria Cuernavaca - Ventura
Well, I finally gave in.....
After about a year of deliberately avoiding this place, I decided to just go for it and have a bite at one of the best places to grab a taco in the Ventura County: Taqueria Cuernavaca in Ventura (city).
It was a real crappy Monday and I was desperate for an easy no-brainer taqueria to blog about so against my better judgement, I decided on knocking this one out today. I mean, I also wanted to get at least another review going before the end of the year.
The reason I've stayed away from Cuernavaca is because I know that's its a real popular place and in some folks eyes, its the gold standard of taquerias in this area. So, given this info way before this blog was even a twinkle in my eye I wanted to hold off as long as possible before giving it the once over.
Anyways, Over a year ago when Josh and I went to go check out Lalo's, he snuck off afterwards and had seconds at Taqueria Cuernavaca. Here's what he emailed me about the place at the time:
"After ordering I headed to the salsa bar to grab one of each. They had a Guacamole type Verde, a regular Verde and a Roja. They all had a nice flavor and the two Verdes had a good kick that made me excited. I then noticed the salsa bar sign stating: 'Our Salsa is free, however please only take what you need". Sorry but that's lame, I've been to places where they allow you to clean em out if you choose".
"Pastor - this caught my eye. It came with a pineapple chunk which was like a neon sign of victory for me. I bit a couple chunks of the Pastor meat to get an idea of the taste, and noticed it wasn't bbq texas sloppy joe that Rob and I have been experiencing, however it's still isn't the same. The cooking just doesn't seem to be marinated and slow cooked like I’m used to, the meat I'm used to seems to have been soaked with the chili powder and pineapple making it really tasty, and this seemed partly red, not caked/covered".
"Asada - nothing great, seemed like beef boiled instead of grilled to me. The flavor was lacking after eating the Lola's well seasoned and well cooked but fatty meat".
"Chorizo is touchy because I work near one of the best places that serves melted cheese Chorizo taco's that melt in your mouth. They are so amazing. Variety though is great, like the El Sancho Loco Taqueria in Newbury Park a new way of cooking something can be good and a nice change. I know what Chorizo is, but this was too much like normal sausage. It tasted literally like Vons bought sausage grounded up into small chunks rather than a seasoned Chorizo. So if you like sausage, you can get this sausage taco".
Well, even though I do value Josh's opinion in these matters I have to disagree with him regarding some of the tacos we both tried.
I personally went with the: Pastor, Chorizo, Asada and Suadero (brisket?). Then I went over to the salsa/condiment area and fixed myself up some of offerings they had to choose from:
Even though its not pictured, I also had the regular salsa verde. I have to say that I was mighty impressed with all all their salsas. If I had to say which one was the weakest it would have to be the roja. It definitely was not as spicy as I like while the avocado salsa was the stand out.
These salsas were well thought out and executed. A slow building heat was theme here with an eye more towards the flavor side of things as opposed to the destroy-your-taste buds spicy explosion that alot of other places strive for. I mean, I love that stuff too but, this was a nice change of pace.
Suadero: Yeah, this is the best suadero taco I've ever had. Really, it was tender, juicy, slow cooked taste and had a bunch of crispiness throughout the exterior of the meat that makes me want to eat at least ten of these. Yeah, I don't care what your thinking of me right now because it was really fucking good. Oh yeah.
Chorizo: This is where I disagree with Josh. I really liked the chorizo here. I thought it had a "clean" flavor profile that was enjoyable, it didn't taste like a grease bomb is what I'm trying to say. I liked the seasoning and the little bit of spice/heat it contained. Again, it was really, really good.
Al Pastor: The pastor taco from this particular taqueria is a bit of a polarizing culinary item around these parts. And as Josh pointed out above, he wasn't too stoked on it when he tried it. You either love Cuernavaca's pastor taco or you hate it but let me be clear; I loved it. Why? because it was different. Yeah, it won't get confused with the real, real hardcore pastor sliced off the spit right onto your tortilla but it was very tasty and enjoyable. I'd love to keep score on these things but I'm tired, guys. so tired.........and that's why I ate the shit out of this taco. The pineapple on top was a nice touch and the flavor and texture of the pork was good; a bit spicy and a bit sweet, with a nice char. Not like the typical pastor that's really pork adobado (and no where near a trompo) that I've been eating for most of this blog. Hey, maybe it came off of a trompo in the back of the kitchen somewhere but I just don't care, the taco was totally great.
Carne Asada: Well, this is where things fell apart. The asada here is chopped way to fine and thus makes it hard to get that "asada" flavor that we all look forward too. Also, the small bits of meat in the taco were comprised mostly of the connective gristle crap that I hate. Maybe I got a bad batch but I just can't stand it when a place kinda blows the whole carne asada thing.
Other than that, the tortillas were warm and very lightly oiled which worked out ok for me.
All in all this place was very impressive, at least in my opinion. And definitely headed for 5 stars if it wasn't for that carne asada that was highly disappointing. That being said, I will be back for more. 4/5 stars.
1117 North Ventura Avenue
Ventura, Ca 93001