Restaurant Review - Hacienda Mexican Bar and Grill
on Sun 8 Feb 2009
Have you ever been to Mexico? If you have, then you must know that, rather than being famous of its telenovelas as we in Indonesia are very familiar with, Mexico is very famous for its cuisine. The Country of Mexico has a very old cuisine tradition dating back to the era where the conquistadores first set foot upon the new world of America by the dawn of the 16th century.
Mexican cuisine is worldly renowned for its intense and varied flavors, colorful decorations, and a large variety of spices. Most of today's Mexican food is based on pre-hispanic traditions, including the Aztecs and Maya, combined with culinary trends introduced by Spanish colonists. The conquistadores eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with the native pre-Columbian food, including maize, tomato, vanilla, avocado, papaya, pineapple, chili pepper, beans, squash, limes (limón in Mexican Spanish), sweet potato, peanut and turkey.
Mexico being a world apart from Indonesia, has its own traditions of spicy food. It is very rare that we find a restaurant serving Mexican speciality in Jakarta, capital of the archipelago, and even more difficult to find one serving high quality Mexican food with traditional Mexican tastes, although the popularity of Mexican cuisine steadily increases among the cuisine lovers of Jakarta.
So when we first heard that Hacienda was going to open at the very place of the old Red Square in Arcadia, with a real Mexican as its chef, we were definitely keen to try the restaurant.
The opportunity finally presented itself last week. Brought by Paul, one of the shareholders, we had the chance to meet the chef himself, Gérardo Milan, a Mexican man who learnt the arts of cuisine right from his mother's kitchen at his childhood home in the north of Mexico. Eager to indulge ourselves in a renewal of experience, since it has been five years since we left London and its famous Mestizo on Somerstown's Hampstead Road behind, we let Chef Gérardo choose the best selection of menu for us.
As starters, we had the Antojitos Platter, which covers all the samples of fried starters.
The Antojitos Platter
Jalapeño Poppers: deep fried big green chili pepper filled with fresh cream cheese, which gives you a delicious warm and burning sensation from the very first bite.
Chimichangitas: small Chimichangas, mini burritos filled with meat, tomatoes, corn and melted cheese, deliciously dangerous because one is never enough!
Bean & Cheese Nachos: traditional Mexican Nachos with Bean & Cheese toppings. Crispy and so warm, and the Nachos are the best ones we've ever tried so far.
Cheese Quesadillas: mini tortilla quesadillas with melted cheese inside. The taste of the cheese melting in your mouth creates a rich and delicious sensation.
Beef Taquitos: mini tortilla rolls filled with beef slices, fried deep. A little spicy, but very good, too.
Guacamole & Cream Cheese dips come together with this platter.
Overall Note: 4.8/5
Why do we love it? Because the platter contains a sample of everything, and the marriage of deep fried appetizers with Guacamole & Cream Cheese dips is just perfect.
Then, as main course, Chef Gérardo Milan ordered us each a Beef Burrito and a Chicken Quesadillas.
The Beef Burrito
Burrito is a soft/unfried version of Chimichanga. Yes, the bigger form of the Chimichangita we ate earlier in the starter platter.
The Beef Burrito we had was so far the most delicious burrito we have ever tasted in Jakarta. Hacienda's Burrito is a typical Mexican Burrito, with spinach blended into its mixture of flour, resulting in a light green tortilla, wrapping a delicious mélange of red beans, Mexican rice and beef slices, all smothered with melted cheese and salsa sauce.
The Burrito is very rich in taste and you will feel a lot of different flavors meet and melt in your mouth. This is why we personally like Mexican food - it can be spicy, but the spices never really cover the real taste of the food, and it is never too spicy.
Overall Note: 5/5
Why do we love it? Because it's simply so rich in taste! And for the good extra, it comes with fresh garden salad and Aceto Balsamico/Balsamic Vinegar dressing, to balance the heavy meal.
The Chicken Quesadillas
Cheese & chicken-stuffed flour tortilla, baked until the cheese has melt and glued the tortilla together in a supremely rich taste.
The Quesadillas are actually also some kind of starters, although we consider it a real main course, because it comes in a big portion.
Very delicious as well.
Overall Note: 5/5
Why do we love it? Because it has the taste of a real Mexican quesadilla dish and the filling inside goes along very well with the Guacamole & Cream Cheese dip sauce it is served with.
We asked Chef Gérardo about the kind of perfect beverage that would make our experience in enjoying fine Mexican cuisine even better, and as an answer, he ordered us two Hacienda house Margaritas, one Strawberry Margarita and one Peach Margarita, plus a glass of white wine and a bottle of mineral water.
According to the Chef, while enjoying Mexican dishes, you have to drink something fresh and cold to match the warm and burning sensation from your Mexican dishes. And it proved right since the fruity flavors of our Margaritas made the food taste even richer, while the wine added a note of finesse in the fine dining experience and the mineral water helped us digest the meals.
For beer lovers, the Chef also suggests you to try Corona with lemon as an accompaniment to your real Mexican dinner.
Hacienda also houses a wine cave, a wide selection of house liqueurs, signature cocktails as well as traditional Mexican beverages.
Having finished talking about the food, our journey in discovering Hacienda is not yet complete.
If you still ask 'where is Hacienda?', well, the restaurant is located at the far end of the Ground Floor at Plaza Senayan Arcadia. If on meal times it mainly serves as an upscale restaurant, on weekend nights sometimes it transforms into a lively Mexican bar with Mexican bands, dancers, attractions.
The decoration is simple yet elegant, with wooden panels everywhere, comfortable seatings and romantic lightings that make Hacienda a suitable place for your romantic couple dinners too.
We can feel the warm Mexican ambience with some kind of passion from the warm colors which dominate the interior, and if you think you could find cheesy Mexican ornaments such as Sombrero, cactuses or anything, well, Hacienda with its elegance needs no such things to express its specialty of Mexican cuisine.
Hacienda's warm and romantic ambience, the great Chef Gérardo Milan who brings about the real Mexican taste in its delicious menu, its note of elegance and good experience of fine Mexican dining, and the ideal location in the very heart of Jakarta.
Although some would say that the restaurant is pricey, we would say, quality comes with a price! And on this matter, we consider Hacienda still affordable, and not excessively expensive.
We would soon be back there for its Grand Opening which will take place on Tuesday, 10 February 2009 - come along!