Have you ever noticed that when you ask people about their experience at a Mexican restaurant in Tokyo, they never give an answer that mentions the food? The conversation goes something like this.
Q: “How was dinner at that Mexican restaurant?”
A: “They had mariachis!”
A: “Margaritas were really strong.”
El Quixico, in Nishi Ogikubo, falls into second category. Honestly, I don’t know why we’re all so devoted to this tiny little restaurant. The service is possibly the slowest and least predictable I’ve ever seen. I’ve lived in Central America, and I understand that it is very common there for everyone’s food to come out separately. But 20 minutes apart? And how does the last person to arrive always seem to get his food first? AND it’s not run by Latin Americans. Everyone who works there is Japanese, making the bizarre food delivery lottery that you play when you bring a large group is even more inexplicable.
It’s so small that unless you make reservations or get there early, you’re going to end up sitting a teeny table that is squeezed between reach-in coolers full of beer. If you do get a table, it’s so full of expats from our little West Tokyo enclave that your only chance of having a private conversation would be to speak in code.
But we love it. The margaritas, which take about 20 minutes per pitcher to make, are absolutely yummy every time. When you finally get food, it’s always good. The mole (mo-lay, not mole) sauce actually tastes fairly authentic. The green and red enchiladas are filled with spinach, chicken, beef and the right amount of cheese. They aren’t smothered in Velveeta in some bastardized American semblance of an enchilada. For an appetizer, the nachos are more generous than one would expect in any restaurant in Japan. No attention is paid to presentation whatsoever, which is exactly the way nachos should be served. What you get is exactly what a true nacho lover hopes for- a big pile of chips covered in warm, yummy cheese, chicken and whatever extras you decide to add.
However, I have to admit, the margaritas are the big draw. In a land of cocktail perfection at a whopping nine dollars per drink, sometimes it’s fun just to have a big sloppy pitcher of lime and tequila. However, as a word of caution, smallish people with empty stomachs shouldn’t suck down an entire pitcher by themselves and expect to have much of an evening after that. Or so I hear.
If you don’t plan to show up early, or if you have a big party, reservations are a must. The last time I called, after practicing my reservation making Japanese phrases in preparation, the phone was answered by a completely charming Japanese woman who spoke perfect, unaccented English. She was also there during the dinner I was planning, in which after 3 margaritas, we all kept trying to talk to her in Japanese, to which she would politely reply that we REALLY didn’t need to do that. Apparently, tequila does not really sharpen language ability. Who knew?