Puesto

>> Thursday, May 17, 2012

Date of Dining: 4/7/2012
Price: 3 tacos or bowl $9, sides
Location: 1026 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037
website

The Quick Bit:

+ wide variety of toppings
+ tacos are reheated to order
+ great tasting salsas
Δ menu could be simplified to some set combos
Δ all items could be prepared fresh

Puesto is a Mexican taco restaurant in La Jolla whose concept is to offer slightly more upscale Mexican food than Chipotle. In short, it is about the Burger Lounge improvement over Red Robin except that Puesto does the improvement over Chipotle.
my taco order
The main concept of Puesto is to offer made to order tacos with certain fillings and toppings and then prepare the food fresh in front of your eyes. Puesto claims that all the ingredients are natural, made fresh, and of higher quality than other Mexican places. When you order, you are given a laminated menu and marker and there is an employee dedicated full time to explaining the ordering process; when there is an employee that has to explain the menu to every customer, that is usually the sign of an overly-complex menu.
After placing my order, I was able to watch the chef prepare the food.
chef prepares my order
Another trait that makes Puesto unique is that they use melted cheese to create a wrap for the taco filling. Inside the cheese wrap are the two main ingredients that one selects for the taco.
tacos are finished
After the tacos fillings are created, they are placed inside "freshly ground" corn tortillas and topped with various toppings and salsas of choice.

The Food:

chips and guac
Ostensibly, there were no problems with this. The chips were the standard tortilla chip and the guacamole was a nice freshly made guacamole. However, I do object to the $5 price tag for this item. While the concept is generally to be more upscale than Chipotle, this dish is no different than the same item I can get at Chipotle for $3.
3 tacos - beef & nopales, shrimp & zucchini flower, fish & huitlacoche
While I did enjoy the flavor of the tacos, I did realize that despite ordering 3 completely different tacos, the flavors were about 85% the same; I realized that the flavor I was getting was mainly from the salsa, onions, cilantro, and cheese wrap. I elected for the mango salsa, which happened to also be the spiciest, and it had both a strong spicy kick as well as a gentle sweetness that was full of flavor. Of all the proteins, the one I was able to most distinguish was the fish because it was cooked in an ancho-based sauce to give extra flavors. For the shrimp and beef, the only real difference I detected was in the texture.
Why do such different proteins produce the same flavor? I believe it has to do with my biggest concern when I saw the operation; all of the main ingredients are pre-cooked and simply reheated. By the time the items have been cooked and reheated, most of the good fresh flavors from the fresh ingredients has died in the hot table. While I enjoy the made to order concept of Puesto, I believe their food would taste much better if it was all prepared fresh.

Conclusion

While I did enjoy the flavor of the mango salsa at Puesto, I hesitate to recommend the restaurant to others on the fact that the proteins are not prepared fresh. When they are left sitting out, the extra premium that is supposedly going towards higher quality ingredients is lost. Additionally, it would help if they come up with 4-6 "set" 3 taco combos that people can order. This would make the ordering process much easier.

3 comments:

Rodzilla May 17, 2012 at 11:47 PM  

is it cotija cheese? I know that's milder but the amount used still looks lie it would cover the flavors.

I've really only been curious about the huitlacoche and cactus

James May 18, 2012 at 8:28 AM  

I want to say it is cojita cheese, but I'm really not totally sure.

I was also curious about the ingredients, but the fact that they were pre-cooked and sat there for an extended period really lowered the amount of flavor that they contributed to the tacos.

Bobby @ Gourmands Review May 19, 2012 at 7:31 AM  

I thought a lot of the same things about this place. The ordering system alone would stop me from going back but the food and the price also helped on not having me return. 5 tacos, bottled water, and fountain drink was $21! No thanks, I'll stick with Rudy's Taco Shop.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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