Last Saturday night, we visited Cantina 023, Haarlem’s newest tex-mex restaurant on Kleine Houtstraat, number 13. Due to the disastrous visit to Popocatepetl a few months previously, my expectations of a tasty Mexican feast were running low.
Saturday at 8pm and Cantina 023 was overflowing with clients. The décor is modern, upmarket Mexican – rather than the usual tourist-fodder that decorates many Mexican restaurants. Dimmed lighting with lots of wood and funky wall decorations. As with many of the restaurants along this Haarlem strip, tables are a little too close together – making it difficult for waiting staff to serve meals to all customers. Noise levels made conversations at usual volume almost impossible.
Naturally the evening started with a round of margaritas. Authentic, strong flavors served in the smallest glasses I have ever imbibed this popular drink from. Yes the taste was absolutely right, but serving a classic margarita (€6.50) in a martini glass and then in a tiny tumbler – made it more of a large shot rather than a cocktail
Al Pastor House Tacos (€16.50): three small flour tacos filled with slices of pork, mexican coleslaw, pineapple salsa, white cheese, salsa verde, pink pickled onion and chipotle crema. Guacamole, grated cheese, salad, sour cream, chilli dips served on the side. Super fresh ingredients and flavors. The marinate on the pork had a more Asian than South American taste – but nicely complemented the dish. Beautifully presented.
Barbacoa Burrito (€16.50) : Large wrapped burrito encapsulating chipolte marinated shredded beef, black beans, onions, salad, coriander-lime rice, cheese, sour cream, roasted peppers, pico de gallo (salsa fresca). Delicious and satisfying. Condiments on the side as above.
OVERALL: Cantina 023 has only been opened for a short time and seems to be still experiencing some teething problems. The service on the night of our visit was terrible. The smiling waitresses weren’t too concered about drink orders taking 30minutes to arrive, second drink orders being forgotten, and mixing up meal orders. BUT – the food was fantastic! Definitely worth a visit.
UPDATE: Return visit made to Cantina 023 on 20 January 2016. While the food remained fantastic, the service on this Wednesday evening was terrible. We waited for two hours for our meals (without the complimentary corn chips being offered). The restaurant was not busy. Disappointing return visit.