Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Only Have Soup Love for Taqueria El Picosito

Wherever you work, there's usually opportunities to revisit restaurants in the general vicinity of your office. Since Taqueria El Picosito was just a few miles from where I worked, I was able to visit it on two separate occasions for lunch. From the outside, it didn't look like much, but when it comes to restaurants, I never judge the book by its cover, so I was hoping for the best.

My first meal there was pretty straightforward. It was actually a little cold and cloudy that day and I was really craving soup. Something hot and filling was definitely on my mind when I stepped up to the counter to place my order. The albondigas soup was calling my name, but the taquitos were also doing a little whispering in my ear. I gave in and ordered both.

The taquitos arrived first and were really nothing special. In fact, the tortilla was a little hard, but the meat inside was fairly tender, although it did need a little more seasoning. I did end up scraping off most of the guacamole that the taquitos were topped with because the flavor was too lemony and actually seemed like it was something canned.

Finally, the albondigas soup arrives with a side of Mexican rice and tortillas. When I looked at the bowl, it seemed more soup than anything else. As the Wendy's ads used to say, "Where's the Beef?" or in this case the meatballs. Once I got my spoon in there and start mixing everything around, that's when I started seeing the good stuff which included small red potatoes, chayote, carrots and the meatballs which had been mixed with diced onion. I even dumped my plate of Mexican rice, along with the onions and cilantro that was part of my order.

That soup really hit the spot. Although a smidge oily, the broth was still nice and light and they certainly weren't shy about their ingredients. Those meatballs were huge. I do think they could have cut their veggies a little smaller, but the smaller they are, the mushier they could become. Perhaps, there's a method to their madness. In general, it was a great bowl of soup and just what I needed to warm me from the inside out.

For my second visit, let's say that second time's not the charm. This time around, it was actually a warmer day, so I didn't want soup. Instead, I was in a seafood mood and decided to check out their Tostado Ceviche and Taco Pescado.

First, let's talk about the Tostado Ceviche. You'd think that fish that's cooked via the acids of lime or lemon juices being squeezed on them would still be pretty tender and of course, would taste limey or lemony. That fish was a little dry. I could only taste hint of of lime and that was it. It was if they squeezed the juice on the fish and than just let it sit on the counter somewhere waiting for someone to order it. I squeezed more lime and added some hot sauce to liven it up a bit, but it felt like a waste of time.

Then there's the Taco Pescado (or Fish Taco). When I had fish tacos in Ensenada, I learned that sometimes they double-fried their fish to give them that extra crispiness. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the end result is still golden brown. The poor fish that came on my taco at Taqueria El Picosito was so over-fried that you can forget about it being golden brown. It was dark brown to the point that it was almost burnt. I've had fish tacos at other restaurants in LA and that's the first time I've ever seen one as pitiful at at El Picosito. Of course, it "tasted as good" (or not) as it looked.

I just don't get it. How can you ruin a deep-fried fish? What was interesting is that I read a Yelp review about this restaurant and that poster had the same experience as me with his fish taco. Why would any restaurant deliberately overy-fry a fish? Like I said, I just don't get it. If I'm ever in the neighborhood and there's no other place to go then Taqueria El Picosito, than at least I know the soup would be good. At least, that's something.

To see pics, go to:

Taqueria El Picosito
5140 S. Long Beach Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90805
(562) 984-7246

El Picosito on Urbanspoon


EatTravelEat said...

The soup looks great! Agree that it first looked like there was something missing, many soups have this feeling to it as well.

I also can not believe that they would over fry the fish. Poor fish, and not so happy customer. I wonder why they do so...

pleasurepalate said...

I don't get the whole burnt fish thing either, unless the product itself isn't very good so they over-fry it to disguise low quality?

EatTravelEat said...

Maybe it is how the owner likes their fried stuff! Unless overfrying can make something taste better...

pleasurepalate said...

Well, in this case, the overfrying just made the fish too dry. It wasn't moist or tender. You're right in that maybe, it's just a preference thing.

But check out this picture I took of a fish taco in Ensenada. It definitely looks much tastier and it was. :)

EatTravelEat said...

Yeah, the Ensenada one looks much more scrumptious to eat! I tried an fish taco in Ensenada too a few years ago and it was also very delicious. Moist, crunchy, and very flavorful.