The Incredible Adventures of Gourmet Gal

Thursday, September 28, 2006



75-02 Roosevelt Ave @ 75th Street
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

We've peeked inside this charming Mexican restaurant many times on our way to the Jackson Diner. This Monday night, I finally said to J that it was time for us to try it. Stepping inside, we were greeted by the terracotta tiled floor and cheerful Mexican pop songs. The waitress let us pick our seats and we settled into a fabric-upholstered booth where two diligent young cooks were in full view from the open kitchen. Everything had the warm impression of a family dinning room. It felt as if we happened to drop by a friend's house and her mom just pulled out two empty plates for us to join in their dinner in progress.

The appetizer section featured simple dishes like guacamole and tamales. The main platters consisted of varied affairs of grilled meat and fish. There were also hand-written notes of today's specials in Spanish without any English translations. "Do you know what they are?" I asked J hopefully. On more than one occasion, he had claimed that he spoke some Spanish. J squinted to read the menu then nodded quickly. "Some sort of soup."
"What kind of soup?"
He shrugged, "Dunno."

Gees, that was informative.

I inquired our waitress on the specials and she smiled.
"Order?" Her pen and notebook were ready in her hands.
"Can you tell me what the specials are?" She smiled some more and winked at us.
"Preparado?" She pointed to the menu enthusiastically.

Great. She doesn't speak English. This is going to be harder than I thought.

I looked to J for help and he swiftly hurled himself to hide behind the menu. I pointed at a random listing, "Cal do de Camaron? What's this?"
"Ah! Soup." She seemed relieved that I picked this particular item.
"What kind of soup?" I was intrigued. She stared at me for another minute before realizing that it was a question.
"Uno minuto!" Our lovely waitress lifted up her index finger and disappeared into the back.I glanced at J. He looked so thoroughly immersed in the menu.
"Didn't you say you spoke Spanish?" I demanded.
"I did! I mean I do speak Spanish! Didn't I tell you that it was soup earlier!" J looked sincerely insulted.

Five minutes later, the waitress returned with a winning smile."Eh, shrimp. Shrimp soup." Oh, I love shrimp soup! That was worth the wait.I gave her the go ahead and we ordered quickly.

TAMALES RANCHEROS (corn chicken tamales) $2.95
CALDO DE CAMARON (shrimp soup) $7.95
POLLO A LA PARRILA (marinated boneless chicken breast served with Mexican rice and
beans) $9.95
COCHINITA PIBIL (marinated roasted pork wrapped in banana leaves) $11.95

She walked away briskly and returned with my melon juice and“Caldo De Camaron". The blonde drink had the faintly sweet taste of a Russian melon, kind of like a watered-down Mountain Dew without the bubbles. Not really my cup of tea. The aroma rising from the piping hot soup was enticing. Inside the big bowl, at least a dozen of plump peeled shrimps curled up their ripe bodies and swam contently in the tomato-colored broth with irregular pieces of coyotes, carrots, celery, and peas. I took a spoonful of the broth.


Another mouthful of everything, my eyes lit up and my body erected. It was intensely savory and packed with Latin passion. The shrimps were so fresh and crunchy that they literally popped in my mouth. Very nice! I could probably do without all the flavorless veggies though. Somehow they tasted bland and really only provided some colors to the visual.

J's "Pollo a la Parrila" came in a big oval plate with two pieces of grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts on top of Mexican rice, and a small salad comprised of shredded iceberg lettuce, slices of tomato and avocados. Hum, not exactly what it promised on the menu (chicken breast served with rice and beans). The rice was flavorful but the chicken breasts turned out to be just a notch better than the chicken platter you would have gotten from Ranch 1.

Our waitress appeared suddenly. "No Cochinita Pibil!" She looked sincerely apologetic.


She handed me the domed menu again. "What would you recommend? Any other specialty from the house?" I still had hope.
She smiled and shook her head gently, "Yes, no more Cochinita Pibil! Oh, excuse one minuto" she lifted up that index finger again and disappeared into the kitchen.

Finally, after ten minutes of miming and her frequent intervals of attending to other customers, I decided to be brave and picked something that looked like fish from the specials.

FILET DE PESADO AL MOJO DE AJO (grilled fish filet) $11.98

The tamale arrived with the alluring fragrance of banana leaves. Both me and J inhaled deeply into the steam.
"Piquante?" The waitress gestured to the tamale and inquired.
"What?" I was really lost.
"Piquante? You want?" She asked again patiently.
"Pecan!" J suddenly exclaimed.


Our now-exhausted waitress nodded fervently to the sound that J made. "I bring!" She hurried into the back.
J patted the back of my hand and beckoned with confidence. "Don't worry hon, she's going to bring you some pecans."

Pecans with tamale?! This was definitely an interesting combination which I've never heard of. The tamale was delicious by itself. It melt in my mouth with a fragrant aftertaste.

"Piquante!" The waitress came back and placed something onto our table with beaming eyes.

There were no pecans nor peacocks.

It was a little bottle of Sauce Piquante.

I looked up at J's surprised face and we both burst into laughter within seconds. "Hahaha! Pecans!" I laughed so heard that tears was running down my face. J rolled up the napkin and threw it at me for revenge. For the rest of the night, we couldn't stop giggling and eating. The light gradually dimmed and the Spanish music in the background got a little louder. Suddenly, I had the illusion that we were not in Queens any more. We were in Mexico on vacation, just relaxing and having fun in a local dive where no one spoke English; kind of like, you know, the opening scene of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.

"Filet de Pesado Al Mojo de Ajo" arrived when we almost polished everything else. It turned out to be the same disappointing matter as the "Pollo a la Parrila", bland and safe. Definitely not something I would order again.

The dessert menu was simple. Two Mexican specialties and chocolate or strawberry cake. I wanted something that would thrill me a little.

CREPAS DE CAJETA (handmade crepes served in a goat's milk caramel sauce) $4.

Minutes later, three little tan crepes folded into neat triangles came on a warm plate pooled in thick amber sauce. It looked appetizing. I eagerly took a bite. The crepe dissolved instantly on my tongue while the ample caramel sauce lingered on my teeth teasingly. It had the right balance of light and heavy, sweet and savory. Just what I liked in a dessert. I took a sip of the smooth coffee and savored the entire plate.

The night had turned pitch dark by the time we left the restaurant. A line gathered in front of a street cart selling Authentic Chinese Food. I stretched out my neck to see what was on the menu. The corner Pakistan restaurant was having a Ramadan special. Deafening noises from the subway roared overhead. Ah, we were not in Mexico on vacation after all. But somehow I felt refreshed after the meal. This was where I came thousands of miles for. This was my diverse, rich and delectable nation of Queens, New York.


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