Mi Tierra [Shanghai] – closed

I’ve been planning to return to Los Angeles for a visit in January for month now. And it is December now, and I have been literally counting the days. Near the top of the never-ending list of things to do, eat, and people to get in trouble with, is Mexican food. I can’t help it. . .I really like (love) Mexican food. I the spiciness, the fresh salsa, and the tender carnitas. I have this need that I fill at least once a month while in Shanghai (or Taiwan). Chances are, if there’s a Mexican restaurant to be found/tried in Shanghai, I am going to do it. Though El Mexicano in that food court in Jing’an wasn’t that great. (I am going to have to make a trek to their main location).

Anyways. . . I was able to convince a couple of Hunan friends to make a trip with to Mi Tierra. Hunan is known for their wickedly spicy cuisine, though being overshadowed by their more famed Sichuan spicy, though mouth numbing foods. So, I figured their the girls would like it. I believe I had overtaken them in my new found tolerance for spicy, from our visits for Spicy Moment and Di Shui Dong.

Unbeknownst to me, it was Tuesday Fajita night, for all you can eat Fajitas till you burst for 99 RMB (thought I thought it was Tuesday Taco night – a supposedly worldwide celebration of all you can eat tacos). So, the three of us tried them all – Shrimp, Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Veggie. We got flour tortillas, which seemed to be quite good. I wonder if they make them fresh here in Shanghai. I wish I could tell. Of them all, I enjoyed the Chicken and Pork, with my slathering of gauc, salsa, and hot sauce.

But, I was wondering why I was having Tex Mex, in a Mexican restaurant. I researched and found that the Executive Chef and Sous Chef are both from Mexico City and certifiably trained. Why was I having Tex Mex? On top of that, all the fajitas, arriving on a hot iron plate, looked the same with the dollops of sour cream and gauc on top – and somewhat tasted the same. I guess I was used to Chili’s back home in LA. The corn and bean appetizer was probably the highlight of the meal, along with our pitcher of Margaritas.

Would I try this place again? I would, but not on fajita night – guess I could order something else if I do. I know sometimes, but I forget the day, they have a unlimited all you can eat taco night, too.

Check out their Christmas Special

What to Order: AVOID Fajita Tuesdays
What not to Order: Margaritas

1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Mi Tierra
永嘉路17号 (近茂名南路)
17 YongJia Rd (near MaoMing S. Rd)
+86 21 5465-5837

Mayan Grill [Taipei] – closed

With growing emergence of Mexican restaurants, in both Shanghai and Taipei, I have seen both high end restaurants like Maya, everyday type of restaurants like Cantina Agave, and almost fast food types like Oola Mexican Grill. Mayan Grill, which opened in the spring of 2011, has entered with its own concept, featuring a great dining space, which is also suitable for drinking.

Located in Zhongshan district of Taipei, Mayan Grill features great Mexican fare from quality ingredients. The salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce are made from scratch. You can taste the freshness. I was especially fond of their proudly made hot sauce in different degrees of pain. It was so spicy that they use eye droppers to apply the sauce. When you use that – you know you have to be careful with the sauce.

Today for brunch, I had one of my favorites, Chilaquiles. This simple dish with tortilla chips, cheese, and egg, all smothered in sauce, is a great dish to pick and nibble on, while downing a Lime Margarita. The sampler platter of appetizers, with quesadillas, taquitos, and chimichanga, was also a good show of the yummy Mexican foods.

Anyways. . .if you are looking for a place to have great Mexican food and relax with drinks – check out Mayan Grill. They also have a nice little outdoor patio on the 2nd floor.

What to Order: Sampler Platter, Chilaquiles, Enchiladas. Make sure you try their spicy sauces (if you dare)
What not to Order:

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Mayan Grill
No. 6, Lane 65, Zhongshan N. Road, Section 2, Taipei City
+886 02 2511 6282

Cook’s Tortas [SGV]

Not many people know Mexican cuisine features sandwiches. This combination of old and new world influences can be seen directly with theses sandwiches – the Torta. Bakeries and flour was brought over and developed by the French in the early 1800′s. Then by using locally cured and marinated meats, the Mexicans produced wonderful sandwiches.

The Torta Ahogada is a great example of a Mexican torta – with fried pork on a thick baguette, similar to the French ones. They layer and smoother the sandwich with a thick and spicy dried pepper tomato sauce. This great, but messy sandwich is from Guadalajara, from the state of Jalisco. I have no idea how to eat it without a knife and fork, but I’ve heard people there, just pick it up and eat it, in all its glory, with messy hands.

Anyways. . . enough about the history. I was reading about different twitters, bloggers, and foursquare’rs going to this little spot in the suburbs of Los Angeles, called Cook’s Tortas. And at that time, I was going through a sandwich craze, going to Langer’s Deli for Pastrami’s, Porto’s for the Cubano, anything from Mendicino Farms, and the Beef Barchetta from Stacked Sandwiches, with disappointments from Bay Cities Deli. So I knew, I had to go to Cook’s.

I didn’t realize that Cook’s took over for the old Aloha Cafe spot on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park, till I got there. But oh well, restaurants come and go. After pulling in and walking in, the first thing you notice is the large ceiling to floor black board menu. I liked the coffee/cafe menu on how they explained how the coffees were made. There must have been over 20 different sandwiches. Yet I knew what I was going after . . . something pork related.

Pork . . .. pig . . . ham . .. . were the key words I was looking for on the menu. The Mojito, #151, was my pick, with roasted pork, garlic mojo, and slow cooked onions. This large sandwich with pork, garlic, and onions oozing all around was stupendous. As I consumed this bad boy, I had to be careful not to get the rich goodness on my clothes and hands. The bread was crusty on the outside, but not too hard. The inside softness soaked up the juices and grease to provide the moist base need for each bite. Not overly salty, the Mojito was just right. But after thinking about it, I could have added a little spicy pepper or sauce to enhance this experience. But actually, I was really thinking about the Ahogada, before I arrived, but I realized I only had one stomach, and the Mojito was great – so next time.

I think I remembered I had a drink and an appetizer from the menu . . .but I don’t remember it at all. . . Besides, you wouldn’t care if I didn’t write about it. The sandwich was the star. Hopefully one day, I will find a torta place in Taipei or Shanghai worthy of Cook’s.

What to Order: Mojito
What not to Order:

3 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

Cook's Tortas on Urbanspoon

Cook’s Torta’s
1944 South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754-6302, +1 323 278-3536