Who wins the Mexican food battle in Dhaka?

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In recent years, many Mexican restaurants, mainly tacos, have sprung up in Dhaka. Although separated by two oceans, Mexican cuisine is quite similar to the local palettes, with complex flavors and their love for chili peppers.

After much deliberation, the top three Mexican restaurants, ranked for authenticity, were El Toro, Taltibaaz, and Taquiera Lola.

All three sites are located in Gulshan, a prime location for corporate employees, students and families.

The Bull

El toro, is an age-old favorite that comes to mind if you grew up in Dhaka and need to satisfy your Mexican cravings.

The 1995 establishment has had three moves and is currently located at Gulshan 2 behind the Westin Hotel.

Staying consistent for 27 years is a tall order, but El Toro rarely misses the mark.

The dimly lit hallway exudes an immediate homey vibe with uplifting aromas wafting through the kitchen doors as soon as you cross the hallway.

Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Among its specialties, the Tampico Chicken Taco comes in a flaky flour taco shell containing a filling of seasoned ground chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and a spicy taco sauce.

While the ingredients are freshly imported, there was more room for filling, giving a lackluster experience.

The beef nachos satisfy the flavor quotient, but you can’t help but notice the tortilla chips getting soggy as you eagerly try to scoop up the meat with the toppings of tomatoes, chili peppers, scallions and of sour cream with the tortilla chips.

Extra tortilla chips would have helped.

Apple iced tea, admittedly a favorite, is instantly refreshing and leaves you feeling satisfied.

The Piña Colada, a mocktail, was a heavy drink to consume, immediately making you want to take a siesta.

Thick chicken quesadilla is lightly sautéed in butter, garlic and a mouth-watering sour cream sauce folded into a flour tortilla with melted cheddar cheese.

They really saved the best for last. It’s wiser to stick to El Toro’s popular dishes on its extensive menu.

Prices for a meal at El Toro vary between 220 Tk and 1,050 Tk.

There have been two major crises in El-Toro’s 27 years in business and they occurred during the Holey Artisan attack in 2016 and shortly after the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, when the influx of customers has been hit hard.

For lack of profits, they are not associated with a customer delivery service.

They only recently broke even.

Manager Mohiuddin Ahmed Dulal recalls how the restaurant faced problems.

“There are days when I’m the chef, the manager and the waiter – all three at the same time,” Dulal lamented.

Taqueria Lola

Taqueria Lola is Dhaka’s new hip Mexican spot that embraces a more contemporary interior design.

The design specifically caters to the high-end, tech-savvy internet generation.

The color palette, floral wallpapers, and geometric patterns that adorn the floors epitomize the diversity of Mexican culture and cuisine.

Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

It’s an easy-to-spot restaurant with bright colors running through the glass door and a bright yellow circular sign that has Mexico crossed out and Dhaka written instead, giving Dhakaites an instant sense of place.

The restaurant sports bright contrasting colors with its phrase to create new dreams “in colors that don’t exist”.

In the first two months of the 6-month-old restaurant which opened in February this year, dozens of families found new family dining space at Taqueria Lola, especially Bank Asia employees, who found themselves a new restaurant in the same building.

The food options at Taqueria Lola consist of a variety of street-style Mexican delights.

All dishes are served on a platter, giving you both the taste of street food, a fleeting feel while still having the comfort of sitting in a lavish restaurant.

Among their tacos, Beef Barbacoa is a combination of succulent chipotle braised beef, cilantro, and green chiles, wrapped in a flour tortilla served with a lime.

Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

There were generous portions of garnish and the tangy lime which is absolutely necessary.

The Queso Fundido was actually a fun little surprise because of the homemade corn tortilla as opposed to a traditional flour tortilla.

Served with queso, a melted cheese dip topped with pickled jalapeno, cilantro, chili oil, tomato and Barbacoa.

By using corn tortillas, Taqueria tequila Lola really stands out from its competitors. The corn tortillas are crispy and absolutely stand out.

Hibiscus elixir is an exotic drink made with hibiscus flower, cinnamon, orange, crushed ice and simple syrup.

While expectations were high, the taste was a bit disappointing.

Orange was the dominant taste on the tongue, definitely not a flavor of choice.

The Pineapple Express was a spicy pineapple drink, and much more preferable.

The price range for Taqueria Lola is 180-395 Tk.

The reason behind their mid-level price range is that their locally sourced products are always well within their budget, assuming not the future, but the present.

They only recently started offering a delivery service through foodpanda, but deliveries have yet to pick up the pace. They have relatively more restaurants.

Commercial Director of Dhaka Restaurants Concepts, Tanvir Naser Chowdhury, said, “It’s not easy. Customers don’t just come for the food but also for the experience. The whole team works very hard. »

Talitibaaz

Talitibaaz is the first of its kind to blend Bangladeshi and Mexican feelings.

The fledgling two-month-old restaurant brought something new, aside from food and flavors.

Taltibaaz operates from a colorful cart adorned in orange, yellow, red and blue on the streets next to the popular Naveed Comedy Club in Gulshan, mimicking an authentic Mexican street food experience, but served in a Bangladeshi cart.

Greenery throughout elevates the already pleasing view and at the same time provides a live cooking experience.

Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Chef Tasnima Reza Disha takes particular pride in the live cooking experience.

“Many restaurants claim to be live kitchens, but how many people have let you see the whole process? Here you can see everything,” she said.

Their tagline is accessible to everyone as it endearingly addresses “mama” while using Bangladeshi jargons like “joss” to describe the tacos. The slogan is plastered on the cart to entice customers from all walks of life to try some Mexican food on Dhaka’s busiest street.

Talitibaaz offers a delicious menu combining Bangladeshi and Mexican flavors.

It includes the popular Baja Bhetki (barramundi) tacos, spicy shrimp tacos, jhal chicken fried tacos, and chicken Al Pastor.

The Spicy Shrimp Taco consists of perfectly cooked chunks of grilled shrimp, cabbage, honey garlic aioli, salsa and fresca, and a taco that, although difficult to sear, is easy to devour in seconds.

Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Although it’s a bite-sized meal, there’s a long-lasting taste for hours to take home, accompanied by a bubbly Margherita that turns into a cool treat at Mint.

The cart from Talitibaaz is in a price range of 100-180 Tk each.

It continues to operate on the recent hype and is part of a much larger global phenomenon.

It’s too early to tell if their prices will go up due to inflation, but so far they’re doing well.

They offer food delivery through a number of services such as pathao and foodpanda.

However, since the cart is a newer experience, they have relatively more restaurants.

Verdict

Taltibaaz is the best live Mexican experience available in Bangladesh, with its customization of spices tailored to the Bangladeshi in you.

It lives up to its hype and the staff serve their food with a friendly smile.

El Toro’s prices are affected by the lack of profits due to its current crisis, showing the cracks inside the restaurant’s die-hard traditionalism.

Food quality and prices at Taqueria Lola are very good thanks to imported corn tortillas.

Even though it’s not the cheapest, it has the strongest Mexican vibe.

But, we have a winner!

Still not sure which one to go for your weekend dinner?

Run in Taltibaaz, no matter who takes you with you, it will be a rewarding experience.

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