I haven’t had much time to explore Joburg, so when the opportunity to eat at a Mexican restaurant arose, I jumped at it. I love Mexican cuisine. So much so that even my food blog is named after Tacos. I enjoy the complexity of the flavours and the pop of spiciness that always seems to surprise me.
So this past Saturday I visited Pablo’s Mexican Cantina in Benoni. A far drive from Pretoria. As we were part of a Super car run, we were offered drinks upon arrival: a Corona or a Margarita. For me it was a tough call, but I went with the Margarita. I’m glad I did. The Margarita was refreshing due to the lemon and lime. Most importantly, the drink was not overpowered with triple sec and tequila. In fact I think a bit more alcohol would’ve been great.
We were then served tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. I found the guacamole a bit bland and thought a bit more salt and lime would’ve livened up the avocado. But the salsa was fantastic! It had the right amount of spiciness to make your taste buds jump, thanks to the green chilies. The ingredients were definitely fresh and allowed the combination of the tomatoes, onion, garlic, chili and coriander pop in your mouth.
Once I stuffed my mouth full of the tortilla chips, it was time to order. For appetizers we had a beef and cheese chimichanga, Deadpool would be proud, and chili poppers. The chimichanga was delicious. The beef was tender and the deep-fried flour tortilla was crunchy. Given that we ordered the chimichanga with cheese, I wished there was more of it. The chimichanga was accompanied by sour cream, salsa and guacamole that added creaminess and spiciness.
Next were the 4 chili poppers, accompanied with a sweet chili sauce. I’m not a fan of chili poppers, as I can’t handle the spiciness. But I always order them. Pablo’s poppers were spicy jalapenos stuffed with cheese and deep fried. They were definitely spicy but the batter fell off if you cut the popper, making me chase the batter around my plate. Also, a lot of water seeped out of each popper when cut. I’m not entirely sure why. And the sweet chili sauce was neither sweet or spicy. A bit disappointing.
Ordering with our eyes, which were bigger than our stomachs, we ordered mains: a beef taco basket; and a beef mince and cheese burrito. The beef taco basket was delicious. The dish consisted of beef mince, plenty of cheddar cheese and refried beans. The dish was served with 3 flour tortillas, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.
The beef mince and cheese burrito was tasty but not as delicious as the beef taco basket. The refried beans added more flavour to the basket. But the mince was cooked well. Again, I wished I had more cheese.
For dessert I really wanted churros but my stomach was ready to explode. So we left it at that and made our long journey back home to Pretoria. Overall, I found the food to be delicious but some components of the dishes were lacking something.
In terms of service, Lee and I had great service. We were greeted with a friendly smile, our orders were taken quickly and our food arrived promptly. However, friends did have a bit of a challenge. Some orders took long and some orders were never taken. To me, the most important service aspect that lacked was our waiter checking on us to see if we were enjoying our food or if we needed something. But we were a large group and staff was limited, so I can understand why this did not happen.
Given that this was a Mexican restaurant, I have to mention the decor and ambiance. Pablo’s Mexican Cantina got it right. I felt transported away to Mexico. The artwork was brilliant and there was Day of the Dead skulls all over. So I was in heaven.
Based on all the above, I give Pablo’s Mexican Cantina 2 and a half cupcakes.