Opening to great fanfare (and a bevy of influencer posts), Mezcla pitches itself a Japanese-Mexican Taco bar that carries proper margaritas and an assortment of cocktails. I swung by on a busy Saturday evening for a bite to see if the positive claims that are being hawked by Instagram influencers were true.
What a pretty place…
The bar is beautifully built-out. It’s definitely full of character – Textured walls carry an assortment of trinkets that are thematically Mexican, while neon signs exude a cyberpunk sensibility that is familiar to midtown Tokyo. The exceedingly unintelligent COVID-19 government ruling of “no music” seriously hinders the vibe of the bar, but I could imagine how energetic the place would be without restrictions.
Before we start with their food situation, I need to first qualify that I really do enjoy my Mexican cuisine, and a large part of my time in Boston was spent eating at taqueria after taqueria, so my impression might come across as different from other people’s. My baseline is that a taco is a simple affair – They’re a one-protein play supported by garnishes. How well the taco does depends on how well the protein was cooked, and how that flavour gets accented by the few garnishes that come along for the journey.
That Food Situation though…
That said, let’s start with their Taco recommendations of Salmon, Wagyu and Carnitas. While the last 2 were passable, the Japanese-influenced Salmon Taco was the most ambitious and confused of the lot.
This “taco” is a mash-mash of cured raw salmon, edamame and weakly-seasoned sushi rice delivered in a salt bomb that takes the form of deep-fried salmon skin. If that wasn’t enough sodium for your kidneys, the Ikura toppings will finish the job of giving you dialysis.
Look, I don’t like to tell chefs how to do their jobs, but if the salmon has been cured, and the Ikura bursts into briny liquid as you chew, then maybe don’t use the salmon skin to destroy the flavour with a salt explosion.
Pretentious food, but drinks were tasty
We were also recommended the uniquely-named Unicorn. Uni as in the spiky sea cretin, and corn completing the reference to Elote. The real star of any Elote are the spices that accentuate the sweetness of the corn, that is then supported by a dense Cotija Cream.
In this case, the Grade-A Uni covered any flavour you could find from those earthy ingredients with the trademark buttery brine, reducing them to mere texture providers. The dish is supposed to be “luxurious”, but they could have done without the corn or the cream.
The evening was marginally saved by the rather stiff drinks we were served. My Mango Margarita, and my partner’s Margarita flight came with more than the customary dash of tequila. They also deigned using syrups, leaning into real fruit for flavour in the drinks. All our drinks were well-made alcoholic treats that tasted delicious.
The team behind Mezcla might have gotten away with using influencers to deliver hype for The Feather Blade and Rappu because of the focused cuisines in each of these restaurants. In both cases, they delivered on their promises of above average food with a single, unique slant. In Mezcla’s case, it’s ambition required a perfect fusing of two worlds. Instead, we got a messy collision of two cultures.