The Unvegan

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Menuless at Gardens of Taxco

Course number one is a cheese a dilla.

About a year ago, a coworker of mine walked up to my desk, slapped a golden matchbook on it and told me I had to go to this restaurant. The restaurant he spoke of was called Gardens of Taxco in West Hollywood and despite the strange-sounding name, he told me it was amazing. One year later he is no longer a coworker of mine, but a Living Social deal popped up for the place and I took it as a sign from the tax gods that it was time for me to pay the Gardens a visit.

We arrived for our reservation and were immediately seated. I ordered a Dos Equis to start off the evening and soon after our waiter came out to ask if we were ready to order. We hadn’t yet seen any menus, so we were thrown off a bit by this question. He informed us that Gardens of Taxco was a Mexico City-style restaurant, which meant no menus outside of the one memorized in his head (I later confirmed with a friend of mine that Mexico City certainly has menus, so if this was Mexico City-style, perhaps it is a style that no longer exists in Mexico.). He asked each of us which type of meat we would like and immediately recited 4 or 5 dishes from each from his head. You could tell he truly loved this part of his job as he described each dish better than a J. Peterman catalog. The girlfriend opted for Chicken Taxco, made with their namesake sauce. This sauce was of the cilantro cream variety and was said to be a bit spicy. I, on the other hand, went with their Carne Asada, but we agreed to try out each others’ dishes.

Get that carrot off my spoon.

But this meal was not just some simple entree. Nay, it was a five-course meal, beginning with a delectable quesadilla. Filled simply with cheese and topped with guacamole, I was amazed at how delicious the quesadilla was. I don’t know if the cheese was laced with crack or what, but this was by far the best plain cheese quesadilla I had ever eaten. This was followed by a far-less-exciting soup. Although at first I was disappointed to find said soup loaded with veggies, I dug in and discovered chunks of tasty meat inside. This did much to improve the soup and made it worthy of being considered a course in and of itself.

Get off my taco, olive!

Course number three was a bit of a chicken taco. Because I had ordered beef as my main course, my taco was chicken, while my girlfriend’s taco was beef. Mine was covered in red sauce to make it the first wet taco I’d ever seen and it forced me to use a knife and fork on the poor little thing. Or maybe it was an enchilada? I thought he said taco, but I suppose a wet taco would just inherently be an enchilada. Whatever it was, on top, there was a diabolical olive, which I had to scrape off in order to begin eating. Fortunately, I found that within the taco/enchilada there were no vegetables and it was strictly some delicious and tender chicken. I tried the beef one as well, and it was also a delicious, and wet, taco.

Melts in your mouth, not on your plate.

Finally, the main courses arrived and these things were just gigantic. My slab of carne asada was one huge strip of thin-sliced steak just itching to be devoured. It was surrounded by rice and beans, and although there was a vegetable garnish or two, they fortunately did not get in the way of the devouring experience. I easily sliced through the carne and bit in. The biting wasn’t really necessary because the carne melted like butter in my mouth. It was so tender, in fact, that I attempted to cut through another slice using only my fork and was spectacularly successful. It wasn’t strongly seasoned, which was good because the carne itself had such great flavor. Just thinking about that buttery meat makes my mouth water right now.

Ever had chicken born in cream?

And then there was the Chicken Taxco. I recalled the waiter describing a different chicken dish by saying it tasted like the chicken was born in the sauce. The Chicken Taxco felt the same way. The chicken was just so incredibly tender, it felt like it had been creamed along with the sauce. And the sauce was just incredible. The combination of cream, cilantro and spice worked together in such perfect harmony that my shoe would have tasted great in it.

Where’s the pie?

More than fully stuffed, our final course arrived. Fortunately it wasn’t a big dessert. I dug a spoon in, tasted and realized I was essentially eating banana cream pie without the pie. Instead, it was served in a sundae dish. Since banana cream pie is one of my favorite desserts of all time, this banana cream made a perfect finish to a delicious meal.

For a five course meal, Gardens of Taxco truly delivered. From the menu recitation all the way through to the final bite of banana cream, I couldn’t have asked much more of the place. For the Carne Asada alone, the meal would have been worth it. But instead I consumed an amazing quesadilla, a tasty wet taco/enchilada and even some interesting soup meat. For a Mexican night on the town, Gardens of Taxco is a great place to find yourself.