Wednesday, 30 October 2013

La Bamba Cafe in Saskatoon

On Sunday, my husband, best friend and I had dinner at La Bamba Cafe. It's another one of those hidden gems. It's just off of 8th St, which is a busy thoroughfare, but the restaraunt is in a strip mall that includes a dry cleaner, a pet groomer, a confectionery, a dentist, and a Christian Science bookstore. It looks a little sketchy, and I questioned that I was in the right place, and then I wondered what I was about to walk into.

A little background before I begin? My husband's mother is Mexican. He was raised in Idaho, but he grew up eating real Mexican food. I couldn't tell you what the line is between real and not-real, but he's been on this hunt for good Mexican food all of our life together. He has decided it doesn't exist in Canada. He says even American Taco Time is better than the "Mexican" food you find this far North. Every time we go South to visit family, we visit this Mexican restaurant in Lewiston, that he says is real. Whenever I drag him to a Mexican restaurant, he prepares for disappointment. Despite this preparation, he is still disappointed every time. So he came along, excited for a burrito or a taco, or whatever he was going to find, but also knowing he wouldn't be happy. This place, my friend picked, and told us it was Mexican, but didn't really say anything else.

We walked into the smallest restaurant I have ever been in. It had maybe ten tables, and all were full. The waiter took our name and number, and told us it would be a twenty minute wait. As we stood there, waiting for my friend, M closed his eyes and smiled. "It smells like home." I was impressed. I looked up at the menu board, where I found that the entire menu was 100% gluten-free, except for the special of the night, which had a different sauce on it. Even more impressive.

Our friend showed up, and we waited in the car, because the restaurant is really small and squished. After a few minutes, we popped back in, and a table was just clearing out.

We were seated, and we each ordered a different bottled imported pop. The kind you can buy easily in Mexico, made with cane sugar, and with popping fruity flavours. M got lime, my friend had mango, and I had sangria. A bottled, non-alcoholic sangria, that tasted just like sangria. The beginning to a very authentic Mexican experience. 

To add to the Mexican experience was upbeat Spanish music in the background, a crowded, conversation-filled area, and a view straight into the kitchen, where I watched a few Mexican cooks prepare food. M pointed out that everyone working was "off-the-boat, or rather, jumped-the-fence Mexican", except one white girl who waited on us.

I ordered Enchiladas Rojos (Red Enchiladas), my friend had Enchiladas Chipolte, and M had Tostadas de Tinga (Beef Crispy Tortillas). Every table gets a complimentary dish of chips and salsa. The chips were handmade corn chips, and the salsa was homemade, and made M so happy. He savoured every bite of it, and said he hadn't had something like that since the last time his Mama made salsa. 

Complimentary Chips and Salsa
It didn't take long at all for our food to come, and I watched the cook set it on the counter, and a server turned around and handed them to us. Everything was prepared to be ready at the same time, so everything was served at the same temperatures they were supposed to be enjoyed at.

Enchiladas Rojos
Enchiladas Chipotle
Tostodas de Tinga
My enchilada was warm, flavourful and delicious. It wasn't too spicy for my White Girl taste buds (I thought the salsa was spicy, the other two proclaimed it sweet). The corn tortilla was soft and moist, and fell apart every time I sliced it with my fork. The chicken filling was tender and delicious. The red tomato sauce smothering the whole thing was creamy, sweet and topped with cream and fresco. The rice was perfectly cooked, and flavoured with just a hint of spiciness. The beans were smooth and creamy, and mixing the rice and beans produced a match made in heaven.

But honestly, my opinion of my food doesn't matter. What matters, was the smile on my husband's face, his proclamations of how perfect his tostadas were, and the complete lack of anything wrong. He didn't find a single fault with his whole meal. I mean, he asked for no cream and fresco, and got a side of mozzarella instead, but that's a personal problem with goat cheese. Immediately after we left the restaurant, M called up his Mama and told her she has to come to Saskatoon and try this place. That's how much he liked it/was impressed.

M says next time he wants a Chile Rellano. I'm afraid "next time" will be before next weekend, and he'll go without me. They also have quesadillas, soup, salad, tacos, taquitos, and a few other things that I really want to try. I don't drink beer, but they have a few Mexican ones, Corona, Dos Equis, Negra Modelo, Pacifico and Sol. They also have a promise that if you're still hungry when you're done, you can ask for more rice and/or beans, and they will feed you until you are full. M asked for a place of rice and beans, but both my friend and I were comfortably full after our entree.

Extra rice & beans
If you want authentic fresh Mexican food, definitely go here. If you want risk-free gluten-free food, go here. If you want something spicy, go here. If you are vegetarian/vegan, go here! If you happen to be in Saskatoon and are hungry, go here!

The food is fairly priced, with Urbanspoon giving them a $$.

Oh. The one downfall. They're open from 4-8 five days of the week, and from 11:45-8:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. So you have a very small window to get the most amazing Mexican food, and the restaurant is always busy. They do take reservations, so try to plan ahead! I know I will be next time.

La Bamba Cafe on Urbanspoon

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