First, some disappointing news for all you provincial expat.ru folks who believe Mexican food is best represented in a Chi Chi's at a Midwestern strip mall. LA HACIENDA, the new Mexican restaurant, will disappoint you. That is to say, it's not the sort of pre-packaged Tex-Mex whose only flavor derives from canned jalapeños, Velveeta imitations and supermarket salsa that you're used to. No, La Hacienda, which is part of Doug's ever-expanding restaurant empire, represents some of authentic Mexico's amazingly diverse cuisine. Scared yet?
First of all, if you're just looking for standard spicy, go to Pancho Villa's and ask the waitress for some Tabasco. Because it'd be a travesty to ruin the complex flavors that Moscow's first genuinely great Mexican chef, Moises, has whipped up by blunting them with easy 5-alarm spices.
But for anyone who's been starved for authentic Mexican cuisine, La Hacienda's for you. This place is to Mexican food in Moscow what the cell phone was to Romanian shepherds: they skipped the intermediate landline stage of developing an infrastructure of sub-par Mexican joints and went straight to cutting edge. While Moises doesn't ignore crowd-pleasers like burritos and fajitas, he's also got plenty of haute Mexican options on the menu.
You're going to want to start with the Pico de Gallo (R180 for four). While it's a shame the tortilla chips aren't complimentary, they make up for it with presentation and killer taste. A waitress makes the Pico right in front of you, blending the entire concoction in a pestle, and letting you pick the level of spiciness. The red salsa (R60) is also awfully good, and is a nice compliment to some of the entrees.
For appetizers, we tried the Salmon Ceviche (R350), which is a dish I'd recommend as a sushi substitute for Russian girls. Moises' version is fantastic, not too acidy, but not raw either. And before you balk at the price, the portion is very big. All of La Hacienda's prices are quite reasonable. We also had the Stuffed Avocado (R340), a halved avocado made with mini shrimp in a mayo and macha sauce that gave it a little tang.
The entrees, quite simply, rocked. Make sure someone at your table gets the Enchiladas (R340), which aren't the baked American-style torpedoes you might be expecting. These cheese-drenched layered tortillas with marinated chicken were amazing. The Burritos (R320) puts all Moscow competition to shame. We also tried the Shrimp Flambe (R630), made in a tequila and cream sauce and also unbelievably good. This is an example of the complex flavors La Hacienda offers that you won't find at even the best illegal immigrant taco stand in the States. They've got Cod Xalapa-Style (R380) and other designer dishes, too. It pained me that I didn't have enough room to try the Mole Chicken (R340), which is always a great test of a Mexican restaurant's mettle.
The only real criticism I can think of is that they manage to inflate the bill by charging extra for must-orders like Mexican Rice and the Refried Beans (both under R100). But the bill still comes out pretty reasonable.
La Hacienda's got easily the biggest tequila menu in town, with about 20 varieties ranging from R150 to R1500 a shot. Cheap eX-holes out there should make sure they ask for margaritas with cheap-O tequila (R240), as otherwise you'll get charged R300. Corona's a reasonable R120 a bottle, and a pitcher of any one of the four types of Sangria runs R600.
I'm not going to have enough room to describe the breakfast menu, but suffice to say, Starlite beware. The price range is under R200 for things like breakfast burritos and chorizo omelets (coffee included). Add the fact that as of this weekend La Hacienda's open 24 hours, and it's safe to say we might have a new post-production hangout. At the very least, there's finally a go-to Mexican joint in town. Thank you, Moises!
Komsomolsky Prospekt d. 13
Metro: Park Kultury
Open: 24 Hours