Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mexican Food in Daejeon: Don Enrique; time to get off your ass and see lovely Techno Valley

Don Enrique
*They have changed ownership (Dunsan). No longer authentic Mexican.

The New Don Enrique restaurant is located on block south of City Hall 
(opposite direction of time world) in Dunsan .He has a brand new menu.

If you want to talk about Mexican food in Daejeon, you will tell a sad and sorry tale of woe, of promises made and not kept, of being in your prom dress and the boy never coming, of being at the altar of one of the most beloved cuisines on earth only to find that the church you've joined is not about the true marriage of lovers but rather a cheap date with a gold digger.

Good news, Constant Reader--tacos are finally here. Bad news--Bad news?

Dunsan?!? But it's so Close!

Yes it's close to several regular haunts of Daejeon but if you want to a taco, that's where you have to go.

Don Enrique has the stuff  to quell that hunger that builds and builds inside you. That hunger that forces you to travel to Seoul at least every couple of months to eat at On the Border or Vato's.

I love Vato's Taco's in Itaewon. Those crazy gyopos figured out a way to move an L.A. taco truck into a building and have been killing it ever since. I love the fact that the bar staff shouts in joy when I pull up a bar stool. 

You may still have to travel to Seoul every couple of months but now it will be for another reason as the food in Don Enrique fills that desire for a taco. And as prosaic as tacos normally are, these tacos are far from that. These carne de res tacos came three to a plate (8000 for two, 12,000 for three) with an odd side salad that I tasted and poked at, but really didn't eat. I know you did a double take at the price. This place is more expensive than Vato's but their tacos are different. Don Enrique likes cheese, Vato's doesn't cheese it up.

The beef is fork tender, topped with a cabbage mix for crunch, a bit of pico de gallo, and some cheese. A delightful bite. I prefer things with a hit of acid so maybe they can spare a bit of lemon or lime wedges when I go next. I don't really appreciate the little side slaw that accompanies the dish but with the exception of coleslaw, I am not really a raw cabbage kind of dude.

The Volcan de Nachos (13,000 won) were everything nachos should be: cheesy, saucy, spicy. A good example of type. The chips were freshly fried (you can always tell) and they were topped sufficiently. You should really destroy the lovely presentation and spread the chips around the plate so you could reach the chips on the bottom. I dislike eating the top layer of chips and all the toppings only to have plain chips remaining. This dish holds enough topping for the chips but perhaps spreading it around before you dive in is what smart money says.

The Choriqueso Quesadillas (13,000 won) were simple but terrific on the tongue. Chorizo sausage and cheese locked in a tortilla. Criss-cross sour cream and once again the funny cabbage salad, I've never been to Mexico as an adult though I have had several Mexican friends with one of them even owning a Mexican restaurant. I don't ever recall an abundance of raw cabbage on their plates but then I have never actually been to Mexico to know if this is common. Some help in the comments, please.

The Carne de Res beef burrito (9000 won) was a bit ordinary for me; I wonder if I am just over burritos or will I just now start craving burritos now that I have tacos. I didn't care much for the burritos at Vato's either. Ate half of this one, just as I ate half of the Vato's burrito. It wasn't bad; it just didn't excite me to the point of letting go of nine bucks.

I do like this place and I will go back again, probably tomorrow, but there are some negatives.

The drink is not 10,000 won, I placed the note in the photo for a size reference.

Service needs some work. When you order an item labeled "starter" you expect to come out first, not third, in an order of four items. I understand that in Korea restaurants don't normally time their plates and if this place doesn't want to do that, that's fine with me. I just dislike the appetizer coming out after the main. Mention you want something coming out first if you want it to come out first.

Tiny glass of water and no water service. You have to ask the server for the two-thirds refill of water every time you want some. With dinner, I like to have some ice cold water in large supply. Asking for water every time you consume six ounces is a but tiring. Please put a pitcher down or have the server watch tables and refill more often.

The water is cold, sometimes, but then I am American and want to have a large glass with a massive amount of ice in the vessel.

The margarita is too small for 8,000 won. People know I loves me some drinks but i don't think I can drink here. I can get a Bombay martini with three ounces of Bombay and one ounce of dry vermouth (yes I like them wet) for 8000 won so I will enjoy consuming mass quantities of alcohol at another place.

The first time I dined, the two sauces with the chips came with a small spoon, the second time it was missing. Didn't know if it was supposed to come with one or not. The burrito also had no spoon, the owner said it was supposed to come with one. Positive note: They refill the sauces and the chips on demand so you may get the Korean portion of sauce with the chips. Just request more and they will happily (and I mean happily, folks are so damned happy there) bring you more.

The good photos are by Paul Wilson.

Guacamole, 9000 won
Tastes just like it's supposed to taste; awesome.

Shrimp Tacos 12.000 won
These guys are worth the price. Different side salad and two lime wedges for a hit of acid.

Nice woman.
Bring your own.

Don Enrique


Dunsan - 1 block south of City Hall. On the second floor directly above 7-11.
Open for lunch and dinner:   Lunch 11am to 1130pm  Sunday through Saturday 
until everyone leaves.

Price: $$$ ($~$$$$$)

Recommended: Carne de Res tacos, Choriqueso Quesadillas, Volcano Nachos, Pollo Tacos

Not recommended: Burritos--they're not bad but not nearly as wonderful as their tacos.

Ambience: slick, upscale.

Sound level: good for conversation

Music: not annoying

Casual Dress though you wouldn't feel out of place in a suit.

Visa/Mastercard accepted.

Pollo Quesadillas

Pollo Tacos

Almost clean plate.