Our third stop in the Hipster Taco tour. Over the last few months, I made a couple of stops at Tacos Perla. I'm kind of late to the show here, so you may want to just check out Kirbie's or CC's posts instead. Located near the hipster ramen haven, Underbelly, Tacos Perla occupies a nice spot on the corner of 30th and Upas.
Being an old fart, I love the black and white movies projected on the rear of the small dining room.
On one of my visits they were showing Fun in Acapulco....my late Mom was a big Elvis fan, though not as big as my best friends mother who went To Elvis's Aloha from Hawaii concert in 1973. I still kid that tough talking cigarette smoking "Tita" about going all goo-goo and gaga and crying because she loved Elvis so much. Anyway, I grew up listening to Elvis, and "No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car" was a big favorite along with Wooden Heart. Which I got to sing when I was in a oldies band waaaay back when.....waaaay back when. But that's another story.
On my first visit I went with three tacos that interested me. At that time it was a pretty pricy proposition, $4.95 for "non-traditional" tacos and $3.95 for "traditional" style tacos. Not a huge list of items to choose from, but that's not important if everything is well prepared and flavors to match.
As you can tell, I also added a side of Chapulines (crickets) for 75 cents. It had been a while since I'd had chapulines, which really have little flavor (when prepped well), but adds a nice crunch to things.
I really enjoy a good Al Pastor/Adobada, so I started with that.
The tortillas struck me as well. Liked the rather rustic homemade feel, but it was a bit too crumbly and there was a tad of sweetness that I could detect as well.
The Ocho ($4.95) was no-brainer for me since I love most edible Cephalopods.
Loved the texture of the octopus, was less enamored with the rather weak flavorings, which did just enough to mask any brininess provided by the octopus, but didn't bring much else to the table. I've had everything from sannakji to pulpo zarandeado, to wonderful versions in Greece and smoked tako back home in Hawaii. This was a bit of a disappointment in the "what could have been" kind of way.
The best of the bunch was the Del Mar (Shrimp).
The achiote based seasoning didn't interfere with the pure flavor of the shrimp. The jack cheese added just the right amount of milkiness and salt to this for me. The recommended "pico de gallo" was a perfect match, good acid-tangy-pungent flavors that didn't mess about with this.
I did return two more times, I'll spare you the second visit, which was kind of basically the same to see if I held the same opinion, with the addition of a carne asada taco, which ended up having quite a bit more gristle that I anticipated. That Del Mar still came out on top.
I decided to drop by one more time after I heard that Tacos Perla had dropped their prices......great news since I thought almost fifteen bucks for three tacos was kind of pushing it for this type of ingredients put together in this manner, with this portion size.
So, I dropped by once again. This time things were a bit cheaper.
The Missus really enjoys the Portobello con Vegetales at City Tacos. So I thought I'd try the version here.
This left a bit to be desired in terms of flavor as it was very bland. Too many underseasoned components. The salsa, advertised as fire roasted pepper and papaya really lacked smokiness, heat, or even enough sweetness to really matter. Strange thing, the main thing I recall with this is how much I could mainly taste the tortilla.....
I tried the Carne Asada yet again. In terms of flavor it was much better; I swear, there's some soy sauce here?
It was still a bit to "gristlely" for my taste.
The surprise was the Taco de Pescado. Folks who've read this blog long enough know because of having to deal with quite a bit of mahimahi in a previous life, I'm a bit hesitant about ordering it as it attains a rather "sour" taste beyond 48 hours.
This was quite decent, perhaps edging on a bit too salty, but tempered by the mango salsa. I do prefer a more crisp batter for my fish tacos though.
So, in the end, I think the Missus is going to stick with City Tacos, though I'll keep tabs on Tacos Perla....I'm sure I'll visit again the future.
3000 Upas St
San Diego, CA 92104