Take the Milwaukee Challenge: "Tableside" guacamole
Bienvenidos a Mexican Dining Week on OnMilwaukee.com. This week, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, we're spicing things up with daily articles about Mexican restaurants, foods, drinks, sweets and more. Enjoy a week of sizzling stories that will leave you craving Milwaukee's Latin offerings. Olé!
Sure, tableside guacamole is a gimmick. But who doesn't love watching food prepared right before their eyes? After all, that's the "secret" to the success of the open kitchen and Benihana, too.
There are surprisingly few places in Milwaukee that make their guacamole out in the open. In honor of Mexican Dining Week, we decided to try two of them and pit them against one another in this latest Milwaukee challenge.
We selected Habanero's on Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa and Revolucion on Loomis Road on Milwaukee's South Side to do battle. The results were not even close. Our four judges unanimously picked Habanero's as the winner.
Much like fresh mashed potatoes or Cream of Wheat, I love when guacamole has a few lumps to make it interesting. The guac prepper at Habanero's did a great job of this, blending in a mix of cilantro, tomatoes, onions and other ingredients, and even leaving a few bits of whole avocado in there for good measure. Revolucion's guacamole was decidedly smoother and had fewer add-ins. It, too, was good, but lacked the flavor of the recipe at Habanero's. Both could have been improved with an extra kick of spices, but Habanero's came out on top for creativity and its tableside presentation (despite Revolucion's cute pig-shaped mortar).
First of all, watching the woman make our guacamole was almost as satisfying as eating it afterward. She swiftly and easily scooped the avocado half from its skin then proceeded to mash it with a mortar and pestle and then added other fresh ingredients, like tomatoes and onions and cilantro, and continued the mashing process until she created a dip that was both chunky and creamy. We asked for spicy, and although it had a little kick, I still dumped hot sauce on mine. I wanted a twinge more of lime, but overall, it was really tasty. Every time I have guac that's this good, I wish I would have ordered it as my meal.
What surprised me most about both these guacs was how mildly flavored they were. Despite choosing the "spicy" option at both restaurants, neither had any kick whatsoever (and I'm not a super-spicy eater). Both were good, but neither was great. I preferred Habanero's for two reasons. The first was flavor. Thanks to healthy doses of cilantro, tomatoes and cheese, the Habanero's example was somewhat tastier than Revolucion's. The second factor was the visual. While Habanero's rolls the cart to your table to watch the process, Revolucion makes its guacamole at a station at the front of the restaurant. Certainly, it's in full view, but it's not quite a cool as tableside service.
I didn't love either of these selections, as neither Habanero's nor Revolucion's guac tasted as good to me as what I make in my own kitchen. Neither were particularly spicy (and we ordered them to be) and Habanero's guacamole tasted oddly oily to me; maybe it was the cheese. But at least it had a bunch of flavors in it; Revolucion's seemed more basic – I can't prove that because though it was freshly made, it wasn't prepared in front of us – and had a little more lime in it. Albeit both were somewhat pedestrian, this isn't an indictment for either: they were both perfectly passable, just not in the same ballpark as the tableside guac I had last month in Arizona. The presentation of Habanero's is what took its offering to the next level, though for the price, I found the serving size to be rather small.
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