Sunday, May 24, 2009

La China Poblano, Glassboro

Surprisingly, mes amis, there's a real dearth of Mexican opportunities around Pitman (and it's not just because of the racial bias, because the surrounding towns are weak also). Last week EOIPwJ visited a chain establishment called Moe's that was so dull we couldn't even get up the gumption to write about it (which you know is saying a LOT; it puts Moe's roughly on par with Famima). Mom and Dad say that the best thing to do if you want good Mexican is to go a bit south; I do apologize for the generalization, but among the large fruit orchards and other farms of the inner southern regions of the Garden State there are many Latino farm workers, and with farm workers comes farm workers' food. And the blessed virgin.

So, a funny thing about La China Poblano - it used to be a Chinese restaurant. Mom and Dad were friends with the owner, so we went fairly often, I think. I don't know how long it's been gone, but the front counter, the fish tanks, and various other decor elements remain the same. They've draped festive Mexican elements all over the tables and walls (are these serapes?), including some hilarious 'inca warrior' type pictures with cut, muscular men and swooning, buxom women. It's also dark enough enough to conjure instantly the feeling of a cantina in a spaghetti western (dunno, For a Few Dollars More or something?), but we solidered on with the picture-taking anyway.

The chips seemed to be made in-house (I suspect so because they were more thin and greasy than what you'd get from a bag) and the salsa was pretty good. Certainly I've had fresh salsas that were incredible (and you can even make a tolerable one yourself, given enough shallot, lime and cilantro. Aside: why do people dislike cilantro? I love it!) and these were...pretty good. It's nice that the chips come topped with a few beans and grated cheese; certainly more lively.

The house special sandwich consists, good lord, of a deep-fried steak topped with heaps of shredded Oaxaca cheese (largely mozarella) and vegetables. Sure looked good, but there was no lack of food on my own plate, so I didn't agitate for a taste.

I think a good way to tell that the place is pretty authentic (other than the fact that the waitress is shy and speaks precious little English) is that burritos are consigned to a dark corner of the menu. I've heard that these are an American invention (like proper pizza!), so if you see people proudly featuring them at the top of the menu, or as the primary driver of the cuisine, you should be aware. I'm not saying authenticity is a guarantee of good taste or nothin', I'm just, like, sayin'. This burrito was big and stuffed, though posibly a little lacking in love.

Enchiladas. Ohhh, do we love enchiladas. Soft tortillas, filled with soft, shredded chicken (I'd like to say it's sorta ropa viejo style but I think that's confined to beef. I'd also like to say that ropa viejo always reminds me of Tom Petty's Hard Promises album, the one that starts with The Waiting and has him standing in a record store on the cover. I thought that the bin next to him said Ropa Viejo, but I now see that it says Mucha Ropa instead. Ah well, at least we could have a pleasurable digression. And now back to our feature sentence.) and topped with copious quantities of green salsa, sliced onion, some white sauce, and a piece of fresh cheese (a little softer than mine; I've gotta work out a better method). The chicken was really exemplary; soft and delicious, lots of flavor. Even the side 'boat' of beans was quite good - not too fatty, not too heavy. The rice was forgettable, but that's no great sin when you're confronted by all this other goodness.

Mexican food. Yum.


  1. Cilantro is the Devil. A sop for lazy chefs or poor quality ingredients. Or would you like to know what I really think?

  2. I agree! I've always thought of Mexican, Thai and Indian chefs as lazy! All of them! At least their food tastes good since they use so much cilantro though.