la carta de oaxaca
a strange thought came to my mind as i tried numerous restaurants around oaxaca, “i wish there was a la carta de oaxaca here”.
there were some standouts; the most expensive, la casa de oaxaca, in oaxaca city, and the least expensive, a couple of holes in the wall recommended by our cabbie in puerto escondido. perhaps it was due to my high expectations, but everything in between was painfully average.
the tortillas were always homemade, the hot sauce was generally delicious and unique. but atmosphere didn’t seem to be a consideration anywhere, as plastic chairs and doll-sized, see-through paper napkins were the norm. menus varied only slightly between restaurants. meat and fish were always overcooked. we ordered ceviche at the hotel santa fe in oaxaca – a restaurant that had been recommended repeatedly and which had an amazing beach and sunset view – and it appeared to be completely cooked through.
if i lived in ballard, or had a car, la carta would be a weekly destination. this was where i first discovered mole, first thought “why didn’t i ever think of putting chocolate in a savory sauce?”, first realized there was lovely mexican food to be had in seattle. the pleasure of untying, unfolding a banana leaf wrapped tamale cannot be underestimated. the waft of sweet hot air that is released, the thin bits of masa caught in the folds. the tender meat or chilies inside are only slightly more exciting that the unwrapping process.
this restaurant was what made me want to visit oaxaca.
now, no restaurant could possibly be a substitute for the real place, the road side juice stands, two dollar cab rides, ninety degree weather and crashing surf. but to have found a restaurant in oaxaca that was as spotlessly clean and as aesthetically pleasing, serving flavors as clear and traditional but not everyday, as la carta de oaxaca, would have been extremely satisfying. and if i have to wear my winter coat in june, i can feel (slightly) comforted by a little trip to ballard and la carta. if nothing else, it inspires me to work hard si can pay for another flight to mexico.