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Friday 16 September 2011

Tres Carnales Taqueria - pulled chicken, pulled pork, and "tacos for the people"

Rating 7/10
After hearing all the hype, we finally head downtown to Tres Carnales Taqueria to try their tacos... after I saw a picture of their guacamole. We've heard lots of talk about this Taqueria... some have raved about it, while others have found it while trendy, its not a wow, flavor wise. So who's right? Is it truly amazing flavor? Or is it just because its something new, and really, the only Taqueria downtown?

I loooove guacamole, so with high hopes (for both the guacamole and the tacos) we saunter pass the sign out front proclaiming they serve "tacos for the people" into a cafeteria style restaurant.  You order food with a loud and colorful mural flanking you on your right, while the dining area to your left is dotted with tables, chairs, and the occasional booth at the back.

With a small selection of wine, sangria (scooped out of a large plastic tub) which we passed on, and a few "authentic" sodas, we go with the soda.  We got a bottle of mango and mandarin Jarritos soda.  Basically the run of the mill soda, with a strong hit of artificial flavors and lots of "natural 100% sugar."  I'll tell that to my dentist the next time I see him and see how long his laughing fit on the floor lasts.  Anyways, served cold, it went nicely with our food.  Wish they gave us straws that actually extended down the length of the bottle - they sank straight to the bottom and we gave up after fishing them out several times, and we were never offered glasses.

the FOOD
Slow braised pork shoulder is pulled and reheated in a pot before its plunk atop two small warm corn tortillas. The pull pork shoulder was surprisingly cooked with minimal seasoning - a hit of chilis, garlic, salt, sugar, or pepper would have been nice as the meat tasted bland and greasy from the melted pork fat. It was paired with a small dipping container of salsa, a small container of slow cooked beans, and a small wedge of lime.  Despite having some diced raw white onions and some ripped cilantro - after adding a generous squirt of lime and the salsa, the resulting soft taco finally had some flavor.  The beans were flavored faintly with what we suspected was beer. Grab some napkins, as the pork fat just drips everywhere!

Pollo Asado
The marinated and grilled chicken tacos had a better taste profile. The chicken resembled the pulled pork, as the chicken meat while marinated, was also pulled. The chicken was moist and had a slight bit of heat from sweet chilis, and topped with diced white onions and shredded cilantro. It was paired with a small container of what the waiter told us was guacamole, but was actually a cilantro based salsa.  We mainly ignored the salsa, as the pollo asado stood well on its own.

the Guacamole
Though I looooove guacamole - simply mashing a bunch of ripe avocados with a shot of lime juice and a hit of salt, there's been times where I'm disappointed with guacamole where too much water and/or spices/herbs have been added to it, completely masking the lovely creamy avocadoy goodness.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to try, as the waiter had told us incorrectly that the salsa was the gucamole! No wonder we thought it was strangely and extremely runny!  A thanks goes out to the owner for the correction, because that means we will return to try out the guacamole... and a few more of the tacos!

Overall, we found that with the convenient downtown location, Tres Carnales Taqueria had passionate fans for their tacos, and the owners as well with the deluge of emails both civil and vitriolic clarifying that we had a salsa and not their guacamole.  Out of the 2 varieties we tried, we struck out with the pork, but the chicken was a winner.  We've had our share of greasy unseasoned tacos while traveling through Mexico and we've also had our share of tacos with seasoned meat just made your tastebuds dance with happiness when we were invited to places where the locales eat, or into their homes.  Yes, you may be the only tacqueria in town, but our challenge still stands:

1) Create flavorful fillings for all your tacos to create tacos the locales in Mexico would be proud to drag their friends and family, and the odd tourist who love eating off the beaten path.
2) Have a tasting taco platter so people aren't stuck with four of the same tacos - we're not the only ones that have asked for this...your ardent fans have been clamouring for this change as well.  Consider having fixed sets of tasting platters to make it easier on the line cooks as you have mentioned coordinating multiple individualized choices would be a nightmare as they're already swamped with 40 orders at a time. 
3) Consider dispensing the sangria in the back where customers can't see, or if space doesn't permit - invest in a more attractive dispenser: the current style of plastic tub is used primarily at many other restaurants to toss dirty dishes in... a primary reason we passed on the sangria.
4) Consider providing reduced parking in the parking lot the restaurant is adjacent to - other restaurants in the area have an arrangement for loonie parking so their customers can easily find parking during lunchhour if their offices are too far away to walk over before their lunchhour is over.
You're Edmonton's first Taqueria, and you won't be the last... so set yours above the rest, and we look forward to returning to try the real guacamole!

Tres Carnales Taqueria
10119 100A Street, Rice Howard Way, Edmonton, AB T5J 0C8
Phone (780) 429-0911
Hours Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 4-10pm
Tres Carnales Taqueria on Urbanspoon


View Tres Carnales Taqueria in a larger map


KimHo said...

I will have to say even when you are bashing them, you were still "nice" on your comments. In addition to what you said, here are some major flaws:

1) Serving size. This might be sort of a contention issue for some but, from other sources, I was told this is something "still being worked on".
2) No mix-and-match. This is my main pet peeve. In Mexico, you can order tacos individually. OK, they want to set some limits here. But, why I can't mix-and-match? What if I want to try of one type and two of another? No luck, buddy…

Depending on which parts of Mexico you have visited (and I am not referring to all-inclusive resorts), the tacos served might be Northern Mexican, if not Tex Mex style. The ones I have tried in Mexico City were quite different from these (and a Mexican friend backed this statement). But, despite all this, my friend whom I went with was actually happy with what was served. When inquired, she said something on the lines of "when the comparison point is Taco Bell…" I guess you can't really argue with a statement like that… (But that also means a lot of people haven't visited smaller, less known Mexican eateries).

Oh, about the guacamole, you might have had a "bad" batch. When I went with my friend, it was actually chunky.

Marlow Moo said...

Every time I go (including Monday this week), the guacamole has been thick and rich, it has NEVER been "runny and watered down".

It's unfortunate that you didn't enjoy your experience, but I think it's highly unfair for you to project your opinion and dislike of the guacamole onto the entire group of diners in the restaurant. I'm speaking in regards to your comment above "we noted other tables (including the unfortunate ones that ordered a big bowl of the stuff) were of the same... runny consistency, and from customer's reactions- the same bland watery goop we got... I watched with amusement as a lady started to salt, pepper, and steal her friend's lime wedges in an attempt to salvage their massive bowl of guacamole."

Unless you spoke with all others who ordered the guacamole, as an observer, you should refrain from speaking the experience of others with whom you had no contact.

Anonymous said...

Bartender since '92 here - if the sangria came from a bucket that means they're doing it the traditional way. Depending on ingredients, sangria is prepared in advance by adding (say) orange, lime, lemon and peach slices, peach schnapps &/or brandy to a lighter red wine, easy on the tannins (like a shiraz or pino noir). Let it chill in a cooler for a day (preferably 2 or 3) and scoop the deliciousness out of a plastic jug.

If you prefer red wine over ice with a dab of schnapps, there's a Joey's on 112 & Jasper. Now that I know where the real deal is on Sangria, I'll be stopping by Tres Carnales Taqueria mid-week (which will be my third visit in a month). And you should have tried their fish tacos... mmmm...

Anonymous said...

I agree about the guac. I found it puzzling that the small side of guac you get with the tacos, and the large(overpriced) bowl with chips are completely different things. Watery and a lack of flavour as a side, yet chunky and delicious with the chips? Weird..

Anonymous said...

We eat at Tres Carnales frequently and always order the guacamole to start. It is ALWAYS delicious, thick in consistency, and we are never disappointed.
Based on your blog photo, what you actually had is the salsa that accompanies the tacos. I suggest you go back and order the guacamole. Give it a try :)

That way you can truly make an informed blog post.

Chris said...

The salsa that comes with the Carnitas is an avocado cream salsa, not Guacamole. It's a regional salsa from the state of Guanajuato. Carnitas is also tradionally pork that's been cooked in its own fat for 7 hours, not to be confused with pulled pork which is a Carolina style BBQ dish. We do apologize about not allowing mixed taco plates, but the logistics of keeping track of upwards of 40 different mixed plates at a time has proven to be too difficult.

Thanks for the review, though. Wish we were more to your liking.


KimHo said...

Marlow, I recommend you watch a movie called Rashomon. Having said that, what these guys wrote are what they saw and what they tasted. Is there anything wrong with that? Probably their only mistake, as pointed out by Chris, was that they confused the dish; otherwise, it is a straigh recount of their experience.

Chris, sorry, your explanation about mix-and-match does not cut it. When I was in Mexico in a taqueria, the waitresses were keeping track of orders in a piece of paper. If you tell me your POS is not better than that, probably you are doing something wrong. Do I have to go that far for an example? Well, La Taqueria in Vancouver do mix-n-match, so you tell me…

Anonymous said...

KimHo - actually Chris's apology does cut it. It's his restaurant. How he decides to operate his unique establishment is based on more factors than you likely realize. Perhaps he is more interested in reducing wait times for his customers, for example.

"When I was in Mexico…." - Really? said...

A thank you out to Chris and his ardent fans - we were told the side of avocado cream salsa was the guacamole, though were thought it was really odd, we write it as we experience it. As a reminder - we welcome feedback, comments and corrections and we know some are more passionate than others: respect both the owners and other readers when you post - your comments (be it constructive or not) reflect upon who you're defending. We love your comments, but hey, keep it clean and objective.

Anonymous said...

The parking downtown is definitely not ideal, but your comment about the restaurant parking is unwarranted. Instead of attacking a restaurant for that issue, you should focus your attention towards the city and the companies that own the parkades downtown. How unfortunate that you feel the need to negatively comment on a restaurant for something that is completely out of their control.

Anonymous said...

As a Mexican, I LOVE LOS 3 CARNALES :3 The flavor is the closest thing to Mexico I have tasted here in Canada. And yeah... what you were describing as guacamole, is actually green salsa, which is also delicious! :P

Anonymous said...

Why keep on comparing Tres Carnales in Vancouver and Mexico? Tres Carnales have their own way and style of serving Tacos. Well, it works for them and a lot of people like it!!! I will tell tres carnales keep doing whatever you are doing now serve Tacos the way it is. If you want to taste different variety of Tacos order more eat more and pay more. What is the big deal???If you don't like guacamole because you said it is bland and watery, order other food!! and if you dont like it you can spend hundred of dollars go to Mexico and eat real taco!!!It seems you make such a big deal about this guacamole!!! I ask you this do you know how to cook ? maybe you know how to write negative comments but you are bully!!! tahnks said...

Comparison is made as the cuisine is advertised as "authentic". We had mistaken the salsa as the guacamole (as a waiter had misinformed us - and Chris the owner had informed us of the mix-up), so since we never actually tried the guacamole - all related comments were removed since they were inaccurate. You may read the About Us section for more information about us. To each their own. Take care :)

Anonymous said...

I adore this restaurant. After paying $3 for parking, Driving 20minutes out of my way, in rush hour, and $22.47 for my tacos,guac,and tip I must say it was totally worth the 24 minutes it took to do it all and $25.47. And I have been nursing it for an hour, and I nurse nothing. Often, i eat like a starving lion. I considered moving closer to be honest. But my parents told me that moving my entire apartment 6 blocks for tacos was "crazy".

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion,
but in this case, if you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.

My advice if you do go back however, is to not identify yourself as you may be subject to boos and mockery from all us die hard fans!:D

Rob Ferguson said...

I read this blog posting recently, and after my initial chuckle at the ignorant precociousness that is displayed anonymously by nomnomnomnomnomnomnomnomnom, the irresponsibility began to gnaw at me. Can plumbers be government critics? Of course, with appropriate education. Can cretins be food critics? They can, and will, thanks to the interwebz.

Salsa Verde, in all the variations I've ever tasted or heard of, is tomatillo based. Yes, it does contain cilantro, but it's relatively low on the ingredients list. If you feel you need to change your words *again*, please include this change and understand that this is a glaring mark of your apprenticed attitude toward this type of cuisine.

Your expectation of frijoles is over-complicated (beans, water,onion...LONG, slow simmer) your guacamole is under-complicated, and your complaints about the carnitas not only belies your naivete regarding this staple of Mexican cuisine but unveils a completely under-developed palette. Honestly, NO ONE complains about pork fat. Without too much condescension intended, such irreverence for such a sacred flavour can only come with an elite prejudice sprung from years of abuse, like my uncle's refusal to eat garlic after its use to cover the flavour of spoiled meats in his youth. Is there a similar story about you and pork fat? You need simply hint at such a tragedy, and I will kowtow my apologetic ass right out of the kitchen.

I have met one of the owners, and though it was during a lunch rush with 25 people waiting to eat, he was polite and very proud of his product. He reminded me of myself when I owned my restaurant...and for this I wish the boys and girls at Los Tres Carnales every success. If they did like I did, every day is an improvement on the last, and eventually they'll figure out how to address the concerns that are being voiced.

Sincerely (and openly!),
Rob Ferguson said...

@ Rob - Thank you for the well written and eloquent comment. I have nothing against pork fat - I mentioned it in reference to it for its propensity to drip and run down your fingers, necessitating said napkins... not for its rich flavor it gives to meats in general, nor due to food aversions :)

As for the salsa in question, our entire table found it on the bland side, with the most noticeable and agreed upon flavor (and thus mentioned) was cilantro, and as it did not resemble guacamole in the least (which it wasn't), we called it salsa verde (literally green salsa) at the time out of the conundrum the mis-named salsa raised for its resemblance.

If you were informed the salsa was the guacamole (being the first time in the restaurant) - what thoughts would run through your mind Chef? How would you describe the "guacamole" if you were in our shoes? Judging by your condescending tone, you probably would have laid it on pretty thick as well.

We report what we experience, and stand by our reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, regardless if it differs from the norm. If you do a quick search online, you'll find that though there are a good percentage of bloggers raving about this restaurant, while there are others that do not, and some are sitting on the fence.

Chris and his crew exhibit a passion for their restaurant, and in time, we think they'll improve and truly make a name for themselves.

Again, for readers out there that do not read - we were informed the salsa was guacamole, and initially reported it as such, until we were notified by the owner Chris, whereby we made corrections which you so happily and sarcastically taunt. Would you have rather us kept the inaccurately described post up? Would you like us to post up inappropriate comments readers have left that would have irrefutably damaged the reputation of Tres Carnales more so than a little blog? While they are definitely ardent fans, the language used not only would have shamed other Tres Carnales fans, but Edmonton in general. And yes, those were rhetorical questions.

JC Chow said...

Long time reader and no time commenter, until now. Reading through the review and the associated comments, I realize the level of ignorance that envelopes this city. Does following the norm and conforming to a certain way mean something is correct? Are all not entitled to their own opinion?

If it were not for such free thinkers and those who went against the grain...there would be no emancipation of the slaves, no women's suffrage, no free speech. For without criticism, there will be no improvement. If the die-hard supporters are happy and complacent, all the power to them. Please don't take away or criticize another individuals' rights to free speech.

For those who are informed, the restaurant is rated 82% on urbanspoon. Not all worship this place in a cult like following and slander the ones who don't. Perhaps now that the eatyourcity train has passed, it may be time to look at the other 18% of "haters" as you have so coined and offer the same due harassment. Then again, who cares? Let's all twitter and social media ourselves to the top!

Kudos to Tres Carnales for rallying a group of customers into a mob like frenzy, with their power in social media, hope to stamp out any negativity towards their beloved restaurant. If I were Chris, I would be ashamed that such a crowd is associated to my restaurant. Such a mob could literally bite that hand that feeds them!

If only the general public cared. Perhaps they'll see the eloquently stated review juxtaposed with comments from the Tres Carnales mob, and be turned off. I know I certainly am. Rather than discrediting this review, the mob has achieved the opposite. Thank you eatyourcity for only posting the family friendly comments and criticisms, as I'm sure you can block any and all comments, and not have to deal with this at all. There must have been some very polarized comments that we can only guess about.

Please ask yourself if you've reviewed a restaurant! - I won't point fingers, but I know at least 3 of the above commenters have their own blogs. This makes me wonder…perhaps I too should creep their blogs and see if there have been any negative reviews and have a field day slamming the reviewer. But no, that would be sinking to their level.

But hey - to each their own, this is but merely an opinion, and so are all the above stated comments. Who are you to judge? By criticizing this blog you too have left your own "negative" mark. Perhaps eatyourcity should twitter out the masses and judge your "defamatory comments". Funny when it comes from the other perspective.

Rob Ferguson said...

Easy sailor. I can't claim responsibility for anyone's words but my own, and in my post I was correcting (or thinking I was) basic inaccuracies in knowledge. I've worked in music, and I've worked in food, and in both industries there was the thorn in my foot: uninformed critics. I know I came off condescending, but critics are taste-makers, and I believe firmly they should know what's up. I don't review combines, 'cause I don't drive them. Why is it ok for the same offense to happen here, anonymously, without a few people calling out the author? Aren't some journalistic ethics applicable to critical blogs like this? Should a Mexican food reviewer know the difference, regardless of what they're told, from guacamole and salsa verde? And last, an opinion...unless it's a positive comment, the parking should never become part of a food review.

You've probably heard the comparative joke about arguing on the internet and winning gold at the Special Olympics, and some of these posts definitely cross that line. I definitely will not be trying to win that medal on this post. I won't be replying, so those questions are rhetorical (seriously, *to that guy*...just a stupid comment). I won't be reading, so I apologize I won't be able to read a calm intelligent reply. What I said is valid, and my critique of the critique. Nice photos though nomnomnom.

Rob Ferguson

Rob Ferguson said...

Oh, and I forgot to add this post-script:

It's a food blog dude...suffrage and slavery? Easy sailor.

...and P.P.S. Your last sentence is why I thought THIS critique was funny.


Rob Ferguson

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, which includes this blogger, as well as the people who enjoy Tres Carnales Taqueria. This was not a review done privately among friends. Instead it was done via public blog post. With that said, I think it is only natural that people will respond and come to defend a restaurant they enjoy (which is why this blog allows comments).
I personally DO NOT agree with the content of your blog post. I could expand further, but I do not feel the need to go to the level of negativity that was displayed in the above blog.

Can we move on now?

Anonymous said...

Can everyone just stop and move on Team said...

Thank you all for all your comments, with a special shout out to our well wishers and our supporters.

To help us move along, we will be closing the comment section for this blog post, and no further comments can be posted. Thanks again for stopping by!