There’s a Horsey on the Sidewalk on Two Piggies on the Table.

Can someone answer me this? Why can’t they separate the two halves of English muffins correctly? What’s with this “fork split ” nonsense? Why can’t they just cut them with a knife, so that when you put them in the toaster they aren’t ripped to shreds with pieces hanging out that burn and then your whole house smells like a yeasty crematorium? Someone please explain this to me?

Okay, could you be wondering at this point, what possible connection could there be between dinner at an up and coming Mexican restaurant and English muffins? Obviously there is none, you fools. It’s just that earlier today when I was trying to decide what to write about our evening at Authentica, I was also incinerating a badly mangled English muffin, and really wanting an answer to this “fork split” mystery. Do they want us to rip them all up so we have to buy more? Is this some kind of UK conspiracy to make us yanks look bad?
Okay, who mumbled “Andy Rooney?” That guy has to be at least four times my age.
Perhaps I should just begin again …….

There’s a Horsey on the sidewalk on Two Piggies on the table.

Sometimes I can get an idea of what a restaurant will be like just by how they handle the reservation request. Although Oba! stuck our big group with a undesirably early reservation time, they were never less than professional and pleasant no matter how many times I changed the reservation. Also, our table was ready on time. At Acadia, being a smallish place, each time I tinkered with the reservation size, they seemed uncomfortable, and we spent quite awhile in the bar waiting for our table (service was great after that though.) When I called Marrakesh to make the reservation, I actually felt like I might be calling Morocco, and I wasn’t even sure I had a real reservation, although they did have the requisite amount of pillows and food splashed carpet awaiting us. At Autentica, the reservation for 12 caused pieces to come flying off the chassis immediately, the waitress having to go and ask owner Oswaldo for permission to take our group, making us come as late as possible, and whipping out the “with over 12 people there is a minimum of $25 per person average.” Not the most logocal of rules, wouldn’t it be better to have a rule that said if you had two people there was a $50 minimum, and that way they could rake in the money in a jiffy.
Also, as the waitress went on to say, the $25 adds up fast (no Taco Bell prices here, or refried bean splattered uniforms,) and if we would have made the 12 person head count, (we were only 8, thanks to an illness and puppy pandemic,) I have no doubt the $25 minimum would not have been an issue.

What was an issue, however, was seating any group of over 4 people when we arrived (actually, over 2 people was a push.) There has been much good publicity of Autentica since it opened its doors last summer, and coupled with a mini restaurant row Concordia corner (Cup and Saucer Coffee House, Grolla Wine Bar, Yakuza Sushi Cafe,) this place was packed. And as is common with these really popular places, the bar is tiny and there’s really no waiting area. I knew we were in trouble when we showed up at 7:50 and the only table openings were one or two two-seaters no where near each other. I could tell by the nervous glances of the host and fellow servers, they had no idea where they were going to put us. He seemed a kind fellow, and he affectionately grabbed my arm for emphasis, but while his mouth said 5 minutes, his panicked eyes intimated 45 minutes.

So outside we went, to congregate on the sidewalk, to stand, and shuffle our feet, and laugh and converse in a semi-happy fashion, for at least the first 15-20 minutes. After that, while at the larger tables inside diners sat practically chewing in slow motion, some of my natives became restless and intimated that perhaps I should go inside and force our issue, or perhaps we should think of going somewhere else. But people, although my keyboard may seem brazen, I’m a timid soul (Jody, how could you get ill? I needed you.) So I was complacent, and willing to wait, eventhough I did feel badly that most of my group had put in a long day of work, were having to stand on the concrete forever and were hungry and margarita deprived. At least it was a nice evening, we were surrounded by the trendy and hip everywhere (can anyone say Alberta Part Two without the public drunkeness?) and there were those tiny toy horses chained to the sidewalk that denote that we certainly had to be one of those places that everyone now wants to be.

Luckily, right before my seven co-diners were getting ready to start burning Jackie effigies, the black clad host came to the door to apologetically serve us, and serve us they did. From the minute we finally sat down, we had the living daylights serviced out of us, people came from every angle offering menus and snacks and drinks. (Although half the table had to wait a long stretch for their drinks, as the bar had to wash more glasses. Shades of Menji-En, but at least this place didn’t run out of beans.)

Since everyone had been enviously staring at the bulbous and frosty Margaritas through the window during our wait of eternity, every person at the table ordered this very coctail. These were shaken Margaritas, high quality, but quite tart. The two southenders at the table decided as an afterthought to add the optional $2.00 Grand Marnier shot to their drinks, the addition bringing their drinks to a $10.00 price tag, an amount I was told was well worth it because of the wonderfully improved taste, and warm sunny color. There was also some comment that they needed to refrain from sticking any of their digits into their glasses, but I missed much of what this exchange was about, since by now I was off on my own personal acid trip, my Margarita coupled with the homemade Lemon Drop I had consumed earlier sending my acid reflux into a mind numbing red zone (and that was before I even started eating any south of the border specialties.)

The decor inside Autentic’s one story storefront was attractive, but quite simple. Glowing orange walls highlighted with a dark bar overhung with black light fixtures and occasional old photos made up most of the interior decoration. The staff, mostly hispanic males dressed in black made me feel a bit like I had stumbled into a Johnny Cash twilight zone. Our server, a pleasant, tall and somewhat gaunt complexioned young woman with severe scary bangs seemed a bit nervous from the beginning, my general feeling being because she knew we had been standing on the sidewalk for a long time, and because someone had tipped her off that we were some weird restaurant group. As someone had intimated that I was head RR wacko, she asked me the daunting question “what is your restaurant group about?” Obviously as a brain equipped person of super normal intelligence, this remark elicited much wonder from Dr. T, seated to my left, afterall, how many things could a restaurant group really be about? Goofball questions aside, however, the waitress was generally good, as was all the service once we made it in the door.

You know how amazing it sometimes seems when you are sitting in a large group in a crowded restaurant and this strange server whisks food out and puts it right in front of the correct person, never having seen them before? Well, Autentica is not that sort of place. When the first splurts of starters began decending on our table, the cute young Mexican who was handing out food told me he finds it really embarrassing when he comes out with these plates of yummies to a table and has no idea who they belong to. He said this as he was setting the delicious looking Tostada I had claimed in front of me (the only word I recognized in the description was tostada, so I assumed it had to be mine, tostada being one of the few Spanish words I know even after four trips to Mexico and two trips to Spain.) Anyway, I’m sorry I ate a quarter of your tostada Bev, and that I was so sharp I couldn’t discern the fact that a saucy chicken tostada and a chilled seafood tostada full of octopus and shrimp aren’t really overly similiar. Having tried two tostadas, however, I must say the erroneous chicken tostada was much tastier than my cilantro drenched seafood tostada (although the octopus part was good enough, the rest was too full of green items.) Other starters were a shrimp soup which David kindly passed up and down the table (I’m not sure if this was a good sign) bracing and shrimpy, some queso fundito dip that was so hot it was boiling, a mayo-drenched pulpo enamorado, a salad I couldn’t see, and ceviche, which Tori described as good and sweet, perhaps a bit lacking in lime and kick, but really good. Tori gets my gold star for the evening, as not only did she provide the after meal entertainment, but she used the back of her Dine Don’t Dash Slip to write comments on what she ate. Our Dr. Jones, she not only heals the sick during the day, but she helps out the mentally infirmed like myself in her off time (afterall, Marnie was away, I needed someone’s opinion.)

When the entrees arrived, as tends to be typical in Mexican cooking, the portions were hearty and filling. On my left, Tori, backpacker and food adverturess, had one of the two specials, the stuffed cactus. Filled with cojito cheese, Tori described it as citrusy and good, but not complex. I myself had a bite, and thought it not bad, although the somewhat fiberous pepper like texture of the cactus seemed a bit daunting for a whole meal. On my right Julia and Christina had Mexican Prawns (you were expecting Mongolian Prawns?,) which although a pretty presentation, were proclaimed to be “just shrimp.” (That’s one thing I learned during my non-language absorbing trips to Mexico, grilled shrimp is pretty much just grilled shrimp.) Pam and Bev seemed to both have some sort of chef’s special enchilada plate. According to a description I read, the mole at Autentica contains eight kinds of chiles, walnuts, and peanuts, as well as the requisite chocolate, but both girls seemed in agreement that it was just too intensely chocolate oriented. David had the interesting sounding slow-cooked beef short ribs with tomatoes, chipotle peppers, plaintains and carrots, and while he said it was good, I didn’t witness any handstands on his part.

As I always want it to be, mine seemed to be the best entree ordered at our table, a juicy flatiron steak served with roasted serrano peppers, cactus paddle (sort of like french cut cactus,) and a side of cerveza marinated beans. Although my large flat piece of beef was only about 3/8 inch thick, it was still excellently prepared to a tender rareness, and was one delicious hunk of meat. I have no idea what the sauce over it was, but the rich beef brothiness made it one of the best pieces of beef I have had this year (and as my fellow RR diners know, I order beef almost religiously.) The bites I passed around the table resulted in comments of envy, and the accompanying beans had a very rich and homemade quality. All my life I have loved the rich and wonderful flavors of Mexican cuisine, and over the last few years I have come to believe that Mexicans cook some of the most flavorful meat out there, not only delicious beef recipes like this and the carne asada at Nuestra Cocina, but even simple cuts of meat like their bacon have exceptional flavor (if you can just ignore the fact that the bacon comes with bones.)

The dessert selection was extremely limited for an “upscale” restaurant (in this case, modesty upscale,) a mango sorbet, a coconut sorbet, and flan. The flan, although a somewhat unusual wedge presentation, was said to be decent, but not exceptional. The coconut sorbet was quite good, although since the restaurant was becoming somewhat chilly, froze the bejesus out of me.

Generally, by this stage of the game things are winding down and the only thing left to look forward to at this part of the meal is paying our bill (and don’t we ALL look forward to that.) But not on this evening, not with Dr. T’s demented bag of tricks. Perhaps sensing everyone’s attention span waning, Tori decided this was the best possible time to plunk her two little pink piggies onto the table (luckily for everyone, I’m not refering to her feet, although I imagine those are delightful too.) Now I am a person who knows about how real life works, afterall, I own a TV. I’ve seen numerous times the scenario where someone in a restaurant is stricken with a medical emergency (it could be choking from the bad quality of food, or fainting from the smell of the restroom,) and someone yells out “Is There A Doctor In The House?”, and the physician rushes to a person’s aid with their black bag in tow. On this particular occasion, perhaps sensing someone would soon die of boredom, Dr. T. reached into her little black bag (okay, she said it was her purse, but I like to think of it as her bag of healing,) and produced her pocket sized “Pass the Porker” game.

“Pass The Porker” (I swear, that’s what she said it was called) basically consisted of two tiny little bouncy rubber pigs that you shook like dice to see how they landed. Points were given based on in what particular position the little piglets landed, by themselves and in relation to one another. To my horror, on my first throw, my piglets landed in a very embarrassing proximity to one another. This was about the time our table began to get pretty loud. People were shaking their piggies and screaming like they were at a craps table (okay, pig crap table,) and starting to tell rather frightening stories about their employment at the porno theater (supposedly out front,) their time spent with their porno “contractor/co-worker”, (see what you missed, Geri,) and having to go to court and testify about male groin injuries. Luckily the restaurant was only about 1/2 full by now, as it was aroung 10:00pm, but one gray bearded, distainful fellow, totally disgusted by the goings on of our group, hesitated at the door for the purpose of thowing a gaze of scorn in our direction. But who was he to point the finger of shame, afterall, he was wearing a white jacket!!!!, and it’s no where near Memorial Day. How completely gauche!!

By the time we left, the only people still in Autentica were a few of the staff, huddled at the bar. Okay, so we were a bit out of control and naughty, but we made up for it with very healthy tipping. I do think Autentica heaved a sign of relief, however, when we and our little piggies headed out the door.

Long wait aside, I liked Autentica, and would go back at the drop of a sombrero for another delicious serving of that wonderful flat iron steak. So if any of you wanted to go and didn’t, or now want to go if you didn’t before, or want to go back someday, let me know. I promise this time to be on somewhat better behavior.