We continue through Amsterdam-North, where we are going out for dinner this month in the ‘new normal’. Noord is getting more and more residents, so the restaurants and food shops are popping up like mushrooms. You used to have the Chinese here, cafeteria the Smikkelhoekje on the Ganzenweg or you went to eat bitterballen at the Sluisje on the Nieuwendammerdijk. Now you can’t keep up with it, it would give you choice stress.
One of these new businesses is located in an unsightly area of the Buiksloterham business park, adjacent to the new Overhoeks district: Bacalar. Bacalar, named after a Mexican city, looks like a company shed from the outside. If you walk up and down the street in your heels twice, with a little imagination you imagine yourself a lady of good morals at an unsavory pick-up point. Anyway, we now know that the best things can be found where you don’t suspect them and yes, Bacalar is also a hit. It’s a Mexican taquería, but the food isn’t the Mexican we’ve been slammed with for decades, of crispy taco chips topped with a dollop of sour cream, guacamole, and red pepper sauce. No, at Bacalar they go a step further or actually go back to the origins of Mexican street food.
After the obligatory triage we enter a warm place where many young people are eating nicely from a distance; due to the fortunately not perceptible two shifts, the number of guests remains well below thirty. The service is friendly and explains that there is adventure and sophistication in the dishes we are served. We first ask for two Mexican drinks: Tepache (5.80), beer that tastes rind and yeasty, so quite wild, and a Bucha cocktail (10,-) with mescal, lapsang kombucha with a strong smoky taste and locust salt on the rim of the glass; Certainly not an entry-level model, but damn nice. We immediately take a tostada, a toasted tortilla, with crayfish in leche de tigre, the acid in which the crustacean cooks (10,-) with avocado dip and habanero (chili pepper sauce). There will also be a basket with three tacos of dark blue cornmeal with black pudding, pico de gallo (salsa of tomato, onion, lime) and mango habanero salsa (9.50), a delicious combination between the soft black pudding, the onion pickles and finely chopped spring onions, tomato and green pepper.
We get the hang of it, we take tacos with octopus (12,-), well grilled and never dry, and dip them in the morita salsa; morita is a smaller version of the jalapeño, spicy of course. Just as spicy is the habanero with the gently cooked pork neck, also a delicious snack, just a pity that the chef has a fetish for pea cress, we don’t like that. As if we were hungry, we threw ourselves into the quesadillas, Mexican sandwiches with melted cheese: a portion with smoked mushroom (9.-) and one with chorizo and potato (9.-). It’s tempting night food: savory, fatty, spicy and exceedingly satisfying.
We now drink excellent red and white wine (7.70), both from the natural wines category, because they serve them at Bacalar. We set course for the final in which we indulge in churros (8.50) and a glass of mescal (11,-). That churros with coconut ice cream and kumquat marmalade is still warm and tastes like oliebollen as it should, but it has also been given a pinch of salt… very special, they would say in Twente. Mescal, a Mexican drink from the succulent plant agave americana, tastes like strong whiskey and has such a high alcohol content that the heat hits your skull. Fortunately, one of us keeps his head up and drinks a good tea of dried watermelon, hibiscus and elderflower (3,-), also a fine digestive by the way.
Bacalar is rugged and refined at the same time. The cook Joachim de Buck, once chef at that other Mexican in North, Coba, is not Mexican but takes Mexican food, which had become an ordinary snack, to a higher level. That is only commendable.