By Rie Tagawa / Japan News Staff WriterMexican food is becoming popular across Tokyo, but many establishments hanging “Mexican restaurant” signs are actually serving food made in American style — typically Tex-Mex — or Japanese style.
In Meguro Ward, Tokyo, Que Rico! near Jiyugaoka Station on the Tokyu Toyoko and Oimachi lines is one of the rare restaurants that serve authentic Mexican cuisine, including handmade corn tortillas.
“It’s really hard and it takes time to cook tortillas, mole [traditional spicy, bittersweet sauce] and other foods from scratch, but I want people to taste real Mexican food,” said Maria Teresa Laborde Franzoni, known as Jessica, the owner-chef of the restaurant who also is the mother of two sons.
She first came from Cancun, Mexico, to Japan around 30 years ago to study tourism. After working as a guide, she worked as a chef serving Mexican food during lunchtime in her Japanese husband’s Spanish restaurant in Minato Ward, Tokyo, for 18 years until he closed the place.
Since she took over Que Rico! from a Japanese owner in 2015, her recipes have been based on what she learned from her mother.
“At the beginning, some of my staff advised me to adjust the taste to what Japanese prefer,” Jessica said, “but that was the last thing I wanted to do.”
Referring to a typical dish served in many Mexican restaurants in Japan, she said, “For instance, taco rice is not Mexican food, but Okinawan food!”
As corn is the staple in the Latin American nation, Que Rico! never offers rice.
To serve what she believes is the best for her restaurant, she imports many ingredients from Mexico, such as spices. The most important ingredients are beans, she asserts.
“Without beans, you can’t call it Mexican food,” Jessica said.
For that particular taste of beans, try a dish such as enchiladas banderas (¥1,200). Enchiladas are burrito-like corn tortilla rolls covered with a sauce. The enchiladas banderas are filled with mashed canario beans, chicken breast meat and cheese. They are beautifully covered with stripes of green tomato sauce, sour cream and red tomato sauce to represent the color combination of the Mexican flag.
Compared to flour tortillas, those made of corn are slightly firm and have a distinct toasted corn aroma. With a rather robust flavor, the tortillas perfectly match the creamy texture of the beans.
Besides enchiladas, other popular dishes include house-style marinated seafood ceviche de la casa (¥1,000) and nachos, tortilla chips with black beans and ground meat (¥1,350 for a large size), Jessica said.
They all go well with 12 kinds of tequila and local beers, such as Tecate, served in the restaurant.
Open: 5 p.m.-midnight (Last order for food: 10:30 p.m.)
Address: 1-12-9 Jiyugaoka, Meguro Ward, Tokyo
Tel: (03) 6421-4900
Credit cards accepted for total charges of ¥10,000 or more
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