Sunday, March 22, 2009
Why does the torta get no love? It appears that the sandwich is "the dish" for 2009 and I feel that the Mexican torta should be added to the equation. Fuck a Banh Mi, fuck a Cuban sandwich, fuck a hero, fuck charcuterie, fuck pastram- HOLD UP. Never that. Point is, the torta has been around for a long time, but I never hear about them, and it's time they get their shine. Isn't it ironic that we speak of tortas at the House of Tacos?
I noticed La Casa de los Tacos last summer while grabbing a slice at Patsy's just up the block. On a Saturday afternoon the place was packed and looked official. I had just eaten so I made a mental note to hit them in the future. Fast forward to early 2009 and I'm in there. I wasn't sure what to order so I figured I'd roll with the namesake dish and give the torta a try. The food was to go and tacos don't travel that well. Sandwiches are much more mobile.
I ordered a taco de bistec- beef ($2) and a torta de pechuga empanizada con queso- breaded chicken cutlet with cheese ($6). Washed them down with an apple soda. I fucking love apple soda. Back when I was a creative young lad I'd mix the Red Cheek with the seltzer and apple soda was born. And we're not talking seltzer in a plastic bottle, we're talking old school glass with the lever on top. Ofeeeshal. Sweet George used to deliver a case to the crib every week or so.
The taco was on point. Small pieces of tender sliced steak in a double tortilla with lettuce, tomato and a small amount of cheese. As you can see in the pic, they provide you with all the necessary condiments- chopped onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and several lime wedges. I added each- heavy on the cilantro- and just enjoyed it. Definitely one of the better tacos I've eaten in NYC. That isn't the greatest pic as the taco is wide open, but all you got to do is wrap that shit up B.
What exactly is a torta? According to my good friend Senor Wikipedia it "is a Mexican sandwich, served on an oblong 6-8 inch firm, crusty white sandwich roll, called a bolillo, telera or birote" featuring a variety of different ingredients and topped off with "garnishes such as avocado, sour cream, lettuce, jalapeño, tomato, and cheese."
This particular torta consisted of a breaded chicken cutlet with lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, a white cheese, and a garlic spread, similar to an aioli. I specifically left out the avocado. Like a philly cheese steak, the bread is one of the most important components. This particular one was light and airy with a nice outer crust. The bread is similar to a kaiser roll but the shape is reminiscent of a Portuguese roll. This kid loves the bread. The final step of making the torta is a quick press, though not as long as a Cuban or other Spanish sandwich. Pressed enough to give it some heat and a crisper shell.
The torta was served warm, as you can see by the melted cheese. One of the best features about a torta is that they're easy to handle- offering a lot of food and flavor in a civil fashion, while not tearing or falling apart. None of this sloppy shit while trying to open your jaw wide enough risking TMJ. The chicken was moist and not over-breaded. The saltiness of the cheese added a nice element while the jalapenos packed a punch. The crispness of the lettuce brought some crunch and the spread made me feel like I was eating garlic bread. So basically a breaded chicken cutlet on garlic bread with some spice and cheese. Shit sounds delicious to me.
Back to the apple soda. Sidral Mundet is a Mexican soda, and like most Mexican soda uses real sugar and not the hated HFCS. Between this and the sugar based Mountain Drew about to drop I might have to break up with juice for a period of time. It even has blended apple juice. Not apple flavoring, but the real thing. These Mexicans are really onto something.
La Casa De Los Tacos is located on the northwest corner of 117th and 1st Ave. A relatively large space with ample seating room. The waitress spoke minimal English, but with my high school level Spanish ordering wasn't a problem. They serve a variety of other things including many chicken, shrimp and steak dishes. I've had the taco/torta urge since this visit but haven't been able to get there, mainly because it's a pain in the ass to go a ride. Compared to some of the great spots I've hit around 106th and Lexington, this place ranks right up there with them.
La Casa De Los Tacos
2277 1st Ave. on the NW corner of 117th St.
New York, NY 10035
Open 7 days a week from 8am - Midnight
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