Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tres Carnales Taqueria


My Mexican coworker was appalled that I disliked Mexican food, so I told her it was probably because I've never had good Mexican food. Upon hearing that, she introduced me to Tres Carnales, a place that serves the closest thing to authentic Mexican fare in Edmonton according to her. So one Saturday, we arrived shortly after opening (4 pm) to avoid the long line that she had warned me about. Indeed, the place filled up very quickly and I noticed a lot of people ordering takeout to avoid the hassle. The decor inside seemed to cater to hipsters, with colourful graffiti on the walls, random cultural knickknacks on shelves, a long communal table and other seating options including couches and bar seats. Not exactly a family-friendly ambiance, but definitely unique.


We ordered at the counter and were given an order number to bring back to our table. I decided to try a Mexican drink, and someone recommended guava juice. It tasted very fresh with small bits of guava flesh inside. Perfect with spicy food.


The food arrived quickly, within minutes of our order. I'll list them according to personal ranking.

#1: pescado (fish tacos)
This is a must-try item and what I would call a signature dish. These are the best fish tacos I've ever tasted. The fish was fresh and lightly battered with flakes of tender white flesh inside. A lot of restaurants use low-grade frozen fish for fried dishes, but that was not the case here. Cabbage shreds, radish slices, and a fresh tomato salsa added a refreshing crunch to counter the deep fried fish. A savoury spicy mayo completed this dish perfectly. And the authentic corn tortilla had a unique flavour and texture that was so much more enjoyable than doughy flour tortilla.


#2: pollo (chicken tacos)
I really enjoyed the small sizes these tacos came in. Just like dim sum, this arrangement was perfect for sharing. The chicken tacos were not nearly as tasty as the fish, but the chicken meat was juicier and moister than the other meat options. And all of the chickens served here are apparently locally farmed, a plus for those following the 100-mile diet.


#3: al pastor (pork tacos)
The pork tacos were made with slow-roasted marinated pulled pork shoulder. This sounds very moist and tender, but in fact the meat was on the dry side with little sauce.


#4: chorizo (ground sausage tacos)
The house-made chorizo was my least favourite because of the texture of the ground sausage meat. It was also a little dry, but not as bad as the pork. The deal breaker for me was the spiciness that was well beyond my tolerance level. This dish is probably a good choice for spicy food lovers.


Despite the excellent food, I have a story to share on the condescending service I received on another visit. I brought my parents here to try the food, and my mom and I went in first as my dad parked the car. My mom had assumed it was a "seat yourself" establishment because we had to order at the counter. We were first in line and the place was pretty much empty, so she went to grab a seat as I ordered. The guy behind the counter whistled loudly at her, pointed at her and said, "Hey hey hey hey hey! No no no no no! Come back here!" He then walked over to her and told her she couldn't sit down. He came back to the counter and told me in a very condescending tone, "The way it works here is that you order the food, and WE seat you. Don't worry about grabbing a table, we'll take care of that after." I understand that this is the store policy, but we were not made aware of this policy, and there was no need for the staff to publicly embarrass us. I said ok and proceeded to place my order. Before I could say anything, he asked "How many people are in your party?" I told him there were 3 of us. He asked, "When will the 3rd guest be arriving?" I told him the 3rd person was parking just around the corner and would arrive within one minute. At this time, a group of people came in the door behind me. He told me, "Well I can't take your order until everyone in your party is here. So please stand to the side. Just stay in line, and don't worry about the people behind you." What was even more ridiculous was that, he seated the big group of people behind us right after he told us we could not sit down before ordering. Then he seated yet ANOTHER group behind them. So now everyone who had arrived after me and had not ordered yet were sitting down at a table deciding on their food, while I was still standing there like an idiot with my mom. I wrote to management to tell them of my experience and received a generic apology with no explanation of why I was treated differently from the groups behind me. If this is indeed their store policy, they should at least be consistent about it. So although I love the fish tacos here, I'd rather pop in and out quickly with takeout than suffer this kind of service.

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