Hola a todos! So I’m still living the foodie thug life while on summer vacation here in South Korea, and it is still hotter than a mother-father gentleman. However, that doesn’t mean that this heat is stopping me from enjoying my free time before second semester starts at the end of the month. Today I visited a new Mexican restaurant called Tomatillo which is located in Itaewon. To get there, come out of exit 1, and then make the left you see that doesn’t go into a parking lot. Then turn right, and it will be there on your left hand side. Here is their website.
Originally, I was planning on trying some Paraguayan food at Comedor in Itaewon, but since it is Korean Independence Day, not only are the Koreans celebrating their liberation from the Japanese but also their ability to close down their restaurants whenever they want. Long story short, not many restaurants were open, so we ended up at Tomatillo. That is not to say that it was a terrible experience. Quite the opposite. After scanning the menu, I saw that they served Tex-Mex standards like nachos, tortilla chips with salsa, tacos, burritos, and chimichangas. I hate to break it to them, but they were calling a taco salad a “tostada”. Tostadas being one of my favorite Mexican dishes, I was slightly perturbed by this. At the same time, I realized we were in Korea where they refer to guacamole as “avocado sauce”, so I can’t really be annoyed with them. I got a barbacoa (braised beef) burrito (9,000 W), a glass of horchata (5,000 W), and a side of chocolate churros for dessert (4,500 W).
The wait wasn’t too long for my food to come up, and I was quite excited to see this banquet set out in front of me. I started on the burrito, and it was pretty damn good for Mexican food in Korea. I mean, I still think even Chipotle would beat it in terms of overall flavor diversity though. They also asked me if I wanted it spicy, and I replied in the affirmative. Yet when I bit into this substantially sized burrito, I didn’t taste one hint of spice. I don’t know if they just don’t have the ingredients to make it really spicy, or are just giving into their natural assumptions that Western people can’t handle spice. Lack of supposed spiciness aside, the ingredients in the burrito were well made. The beef was definitely well seasoned and was not too juicy/too dry. The tortilla was soft and pliable yet held together at the height of my feeding frenzy. I really enjoyed the Mexican rice along with the beans that were nestled in every gentle fold of the white tapestry that brought this little bundle of food together. I think if they actually used some sort of chili sauce and more chipotle, their burritos could really go to the next level in terms of tasting like Mexican food you can get in Chicago or L.A. Moving on to my horchata, it was really refreshing since it was ice cold and creamy but slightly different to the horchata you can get at any taqueria in Chicago. The Korean version still had the cinnamon-notes that reminded me of home, yet it seemed too thick to be the real deal. Oh well, just another variant just like how the original horchata in Spain tastes different from the Mexican version. Finally, there were the churros…best part of the meal. Not only did I get a good amount for my money, but they were liberally doused in cinnamon and sugar. The chocolate was lightly drizzled on them which was different than the Spanish churros I’d get down the block from my apartment in Barcelona, but these Korean ones were perfectly fried. They were slightly crunchy, but not overly so, and had a soft, almost creamy dough center that was still warm. Too good. Overally, I liked it better than Taco Cielo since it seemed not as over the top and trying hard to adopt to develop syncretic cuisine to please the locals. So if you don’t want to battle it out with the crowds at Vato’s Tacos down the street, check out Tomatillo!
Before I finish, I just want a quick Fell and Cole blurb about two new ice cream flavors I tried: red wine/Sichuan chili pepper and Love Potion No. 6. For other flavors, see Nosh Pit and Where Everyone Should Bee.
First off, the red wine/Sichuan chili pepper ice cream was very novel yet disappointing in certain aspects. While it had a strange tartness that persisted after each spoonful, I was crestfallen that it didn’t fulfill its potential to be a really spicy ice cream. The chili element seemed to have been neutralized and instead used for textural support as I could feel the crunchy chili flakes running over my tongue as I slowly savored the cold wave passing over my palate. Perhaps the cold neutralized the signature Chinese heat. As for the second flavor, Love Potion No. 6, it was made of black rice, black beans, black sesame, and kelp. Why all the black stuff you ask? Well, this ice cream is supposedly referring to a Korean belief that ingesting these foods can roll back the years. Hence, your grey hairs will turn black again. I’d personally prefer more hair on my head, but I was genuinely surprised by this flavor. I was expecting it to taste like garbage, but instead, it had a sugary taste peppered with earthy notes. I could only liken it to the conservative flavor of a sugar cone, but every so often I could detect the light caress of the salty kelp. If I had to choose between the two flavors, it would be hard, but I’d go with the Love Potion because its flavor wasn’t as intense as the bold combo of alcohol and crunchy pepper flakes.