MEXICAN IN MPUMALANGA
Andrew Unsworth delves into a restaurant that gets its inspiration from all over the world, starting in Latin America
PICASSO’S MEXICAN TAQUERIA Z3, Baghdad Centre, opposite Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre on the R40, White River Tel: 013-750-0300 I
t may sound a little odd: a Mexican restaurant in Mpumalanga inspired by Picasso’s on the Beach on the Greek island of Naxos, both named after a Spanish painter, and also selling Italian pizzas and American hamburgers. But it works, and in the four years since it opened, Picasso’s Mexican Taqueria has become popular with locals as well as passing tourists.
I’ve eaten there a few times and never been disappointed, certainly not by the friendly service. But I’ve always stuck to the smaller tacos and pizzas: reasonably good pizzas are not that easy to find in the Lowveld, and Picasso’s Sicilian pizza is hard to beat if tackled with a cold beer in the heat. One of their margaritas or daiquiris would go down just as well.
To do the place justice, I had to delve deeper. The menu covers tacos with stuffings of pulled pork, chilli con carne, spicy beef or lamb, chicken, prawns, fish and a vegetarian option. The street food or antojitos (little cravings) include corn chips, potato or corn nachos, chicken wings and chimichangas, which are stuffed and fried tortillas.
Comida or lunch dishes include fajitas, salads, enchiladas, buritos and quesadillas. These all involve tortillas either as they come or stuffed and baked or grilled.
I had a sizzling chicken fajita (R115) which was pan-fried breast strips with onions and peppers served on a hot skillet with shredded lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream guacamole and three tortillas. You assemble and roll them to your taste, trying not to make too much of a mess.
My companions nibbled at my chicken, and the kid present, who had already polished off an Oreo milkshake and most of a medium-sized Hawaiian pizza (R65), even polished off my onions and peppers — unheard of. I could only finish one flour tortilla as they are as large as a roti bread and I have always found them blandly chewy, somewhat like eating a wet facecloth.
They are far better when re-cooked before serving, as with the quesadillas my other companion had. These are stuffed and grilled tortillas. In this case stuffed with slow-cooked beef in chipotle sauce and served with the usual trio of guacamole, salsa and sour cream (R95).
That was excellent.
Mexican and Tex-Mex food is justifiably gaining popularity around the world. It’s healthy, tasty and easy to eat informally.
I would love to experience corn tortillas as made by the Aztecs, still used in Mexico when making smaller tortillas. Larger tortillas are made with wheat flour to hold their shape. Perhaps someone in SA needs to mill the correct corn flour, I would presume somewhere between mieliemeal and Maizena corn flour.
I also suspect that the chilli content of Mexican food is dumbed down or reduced for foreign tastes. In this case dishes were mild and the salsa could have done with more kick. You can, of course, ask for more chilli on the side, but South Africans are not shy of chilli. Give it to us.
Open every day 10.30am - 10pm picassoismexican.co.za