In a city with an abundance of restaurants, Mexican restaurants seem to be scarce.
Not fusion or pretentious, I went on a literal hunt for the most authentic Mexican food Dhaka could offer and I ended up hunting down El Toro and Dos Locos Mexican Grill for a comparative Mexican food face-off.
Albeit Dhaka lacking a wide variety of Mexican food places, located in Gulshan El Toro's menu booklet can be cited as the one-man army of Mexican food.
With a 12-page-long menu, El Toro, my first Mexican restaurant stop for the day, surely had an extensive range of Mexican delicacies to offer. The prices, however, are a bit extravagant, to say the least.
To start my Mexican fiesta, I decided to stick with the basics and placed my order for El Toro's Nachos Especiales, Seafood Burrito, Dos Amigos Tacos and a serving of ice-cream as dessert. I initially ordered their Deep Fried Ice-Cream, which was unavailable.
Now, let us come to the food.
The first dish to arrive at my table was the Nachos Especiales.
Loaded with a hefty serving of seasoned shredded chicken lying beneath a blanket of handmade tortilla chips, covered with melted cheese and garnished with minced green bell peppers, tomatoes, chives and onions, the plateful of nachos was tied together with a scoop of sour cream nestled right in the centre of the tangy, crunchy concussion.
The tangy taste of the salsa hit my tastebuds as soon as I bit into my first chip.
For a dish that looked and smelled as great as it did when it was set in front of me, the taste turned out to be a huge disappointment as the chips had a lingering taste of oil and the shredded chicken was a bit too dry and salty for my taste.
The spice factor was another disappointment as Mexican food tends to lean more towards the spicy end of the spectrum, but the Nachos Especiales was extremely mild.
This dish is priced at Tk520 and the quantity is enough for two people to share but it is not worth the price. However, if you are not as nitpicky as I am about foreign cuisines, the nachos are a good appetizer to start with.
I give this a 6.5/10 rating.
The second dish served was the "Seafood" Burrito - with air-quotes because the seafood was only in the name!
What I expected to be a burrito brimming with pieces of calamari, crabmeat and any other variety of sea fish was essentially a shrimp burrito. The only "seafood" I found inside the burrito was bits of shrimp hiding among a dense forest of sautéed onions and green bell peppers.
Served over the buttery sauce it was sautéed in, with a bowl of freshly made pico de gallo on the side, the Seafood Burrito was an eye-candy - only if it tasted as great!
My frustration with the burrito heightened once I realised that it came without the rice. When has anyone heard of a burrito without rice?
Although it tasted impeccable on the first bite, the excessive onions and bell peppers blocked the seafood experience. This overpriced burrito failed to live up to my - a seafood lover's - hype, as I foraged deeper into the tortilla wrapped sadness.
This deceitful and overly mediocre dish costs an astounding Tk690 and deserves a 5/10 rating.
The last dish to arrive was the Dos Amigos Tacos.
As far as I am concerned, everyone likes a hard shell when it comes to tacos and the Dos Amigos Tacos, too, comes with a hard shell - one steak and one chicken taco with sour cream on the side.
The taco shells were crispy and the taco filling was full of meat - laid over a bed of El Toro's house special cheese sauce.
But if I had to rate the two varieties of taco separately, the steak taco deserves a higher rating than the chicken solely because it was the same variant of chicken from the Nachos Especiales.
Nonetheless, what I expected to be pieces of medium-rare steak turned out to be well-done - resulting in a texture chewier than anticipated.
But if you have the tastebuds suited for well-done steaks, this platter will not let you down.
Priced at Tk650, this can easily be rated as the best tasting dish I had at El Toro's.
The Dos Amigos Tacos deserves an 8/10.
Since the Deep-Fried Ice-Cream was unavailable, I settled for some ice-cream.
I craved for some sweetness to balance off the cheesy-meaty savouriness from the first half of my Mexican fiesta.
The dessert is as simple as it sounds.
Two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and strawberry syrup served in a little glass bowl is enough for two people to share after a meal as filling as mine.
Simple yet delicious, the ice cream bowl costs Tk180, with the addition of TK15 for the syrup.
This deserves a 9/10 rating.
All the dishes at El Toro are subject to 15 percent VAT and 10 percent service charge.
With a heart filled with discontent, I started walking towards Chef's Table at Unimart Gulshan for the second round of my Mexican fiesta amid the downpour.
My destination was Dos Locos Mexican Grill, which is one of the more well-known Mexican food courts in Dhaka.
Since I am doing a comparative review, I ordered dishes that shared similarities with the ones I had at El Toro.
Chicken Nachos, beef Tacos and a beef Burrito de Carne Picada completed my Dos Locos order.
All of the dishes I ordered were served at the same time with a waiting period of approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
The first item that caught my eye was the Burrito de Carne Picada, packed with an ample amount of sliced up well-done steak (has medium-rare steak become a myth?) and sautéed onions and bell peppers, covered in a smoky barbeque sauce - offering a perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
A layer of melted cheese over the top kept the steak chunks tied together.
The first bite filled my mouth with tangy, savoury goodness.
The combination of the tortilla, steak, and sautéed vegetables paired with barbecue sauce managed to wipe away some of the disappointment I carried with me from El Toro.
And although I was pretty full from eating so much only a few minutes ago, I still managed to devour one whole burrito in a few swift bites.
The tortillas, unlike El Toro's, were not drenched in gravy - giving it the flakiness it needed to balance out the wetness of the steak filling.
Like El Toro, this burrito also comes without the rice - a downside, but the overall taste is so good that it can do without the rice anyway.
The Burrito de Carne Picada comes with two burritos and a side of fries, pico de gallo and tomato ketchup to complement the fries, deserving a rating of 9.5/10.
This delectable Mexican dish is priced at Tk525 and a carries a way better value for money in contrast to El Toro's Seafood Burrito.
The next dish I tried was the chicken Nachos.
The heat of the chicken topping, tang of the pico de gallo, crunchiness of the tortilla chips and the freshness of the sour cream kept the dish's balance centred. This simple and satisfying item costs Tk395 and can be shared among two people as a light snack.
Unlike El Toro's nachos, Dos Loco's nachos both looked and tasted great, although the presentation of the two dishes is indistinguishable.
This dish can be rated at 8/10.
The beef Tacos was the dish I bid my Mexican fiesta adiós with.
Like El Toro, this, too, was hard shell tacos.
With most of the taco bearing resemblance with El Toro's one, the major difference was the meat.
Dos Locos used ground beef as filling for the tacos while El Toro used steak.
As I bit down on the crunchy taco, the sharp taste of the pico de gallo hit me while the spices from the meat danced around in my mouth - the shredded cheese topping cooling off the mild heat in a matter of seconds.
The sauce in the tacos perfectly balanced the heat so it does not feel overpowering.
This tangy and refreshing dish comes in a pair of two with a side of fresh pico de gallo. It is priced at Tk395 and deserves a rating of 8.5/10.
All the items at Dos Locos Mexican Grill are subject to 15 percent VAT.
The only downside here is that Dos Locos has yet to add desserts to its boastful menu.
Overall, El Toro may offer you the authentic Mexican restaurant ambience, their food still has room for improvement and while Dos Locos does not exceed the expectation either, it sure does meet one's craving for Mexican food without burning a hole in our pockets, all the while tasting as good as it can get!