Metro Station: Port-Royal (RER B)
Type of cuisine: Mexican
Days & hours of operation: Mon to Sat 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard
As befits its name, entering into Hacienda del Sol is like entering into a colorful Mexican ranch house. Large, terracotta tiles make up the floor, and royal blue, strawberry red, and goldenrod walls impart a comfortable, yet spirited ambiance. The bar at the back of the dining room is clad in glazed, polychrome tiles depicting small animals, flowers, cacti, and the face of the sun. The dining tables are the color of dark wood, and their cushioned chairs repeat the color of goldenrod. In sum, this is a place where one’s anticipation for a good Mexican meal is raised to the highest level.
We were not to be disappointed! As an apéritif, we each ordered a Margarita, made with El Amo tequila, squeezed lime juice, and Cointreau. It was a generous portion served with crushed ice in a large, wide glass whose brim had been dusted with salt flecked with cracked, dried red pepper.
The waiter brought corn chips and two salsas, one of which was extremely hot, as an amuse bouche. The chips were fresh and crunchy, and the fiery-hot salsa a taste experience that the faint of heart should only try once.
For the starter, I ordered Guacamole, served with corn chips. The dish, consisting of crushed avocado, coriander, onions, and tomato, was moist, fresh, and delicious. Two small slices of feta cheese were served on the side.
My partner opted for Quesadilla and received two soft corn tortillas. The first contained melted cheese flavored with cuitlacoche, a fungus which grows naturally on ears of corn. Called corn smut in the United States, the earthy and somewhat smoky fungus is used to flavor quesadillas and other dishes in Mexico. The second quesadilla contained pulverized zucchini flowers in a green tomatillo sauce. She declared both delectable, and commented that they were nothing like the TexMex quesadillas that she had grown up with in Houston, Texas.
The menu offered a wide number of possibilities for the main course. I selected Pescade à la Veracruzana. The waiter served a plate containing a large slice of panga, a buttery-soft and tender white fish resting on a bed of cooked, sliced tomatoes, onions, olives, and capers. The taste of the vegetables resembled the taste of ratatouille without the egg plant. It was a moist and savory dish!
My partner chose Cochinita Pibil, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish made from shredded pork marinated in orange and annatto. It was served with a generous portion of flour tortillas. The disk-shaped mound of what resembled pulled pork had a flavor that was refined beyond what my partner had dreamed of. She devoured every bite!
As side dishes, we shared Calabacitas con crema (corn and diced zucchini in a light cream) and Frijoles refritos de fiesta (refried beans flavored with bacon).
To accompany our meals, I ordered a bottle of Dos Equis Ambar, a refreshing, medium-bodied, malted lager. Beer-tasting notes on the Internet give this beverage an average rating, but I found it quite satisfying. My partner selected a Mexican Cabernet from Baja, a light and slightly sweet red wine that bore no resemblance to its northern cousins in Napa and Sonoma.
When the dessert menu came by, I saw my chance to try a Mexican cheese cake, the Pie de queso al limon. A square portion served on what seemed to be a graham-cracker crust, topped with pomegranate seeds, the tasty cake was dense, smooth, moist, and rich.
My partner requested three scoops of Copa de nieves del sol, a strange name for frozen desserts. She received a scoop each of hibiscus sorbet, a lime sorbet, and condensed-milk ice cream. While she appreciated the sorbets, she found the ice cream a bit too heavily flavored with vanilla.
The bill for two, including two Margaritas, two three-course meals, one glass of wine, one beer, and a single espresso, came to 104.80€. To this wonderful dining experience, we raise our glasses high and cry ole!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.