Restaurant: Riviera Maya Mexican Cuisine
Last visited: September 1, 2011
Location: Bogota, NJ (Teaneck)
Address: 252 E Fort Lee Rd
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 4.5 – 5 (based on couple items I tried)
- Opened summer 2011
- Mexican family owned and operated
- Authentic Mexican
- Homestyle/Home made food
- Lots of variety
- Hole in the wall
- Very casual
- Popular to Mexican locals
- Couple chairs/counter seating
- More for take-out/delivery
- Pay at cashier
- Mini Mexican foods store
- Budget friendly/cheap eats
- Eat in/Take-out/Delivery
- Free delivery minimum $15
- Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
**Recommendations: Carnitas Tacos, Chile En Nogada
I know, I know. What the heck? New Jersey? How random! Yes it was, but I am so glad I tried this place. If you’re in New York it’s not necessary to make the 30 minute trip out here just to try it (unless you’re a hardcore foodie), but it has opened my eyes and taste buds to another level of what “authentic Mexican food” really is.
It’s a little hole in the wall in a densely Mexican populated area of Teaneck, which is a very small town. It’s family owned and operated (sons helping out and all) and it’s not really a dine in restaurant as much as it is for take out and delivery. There’s only a few chairs and a tiny counter if you want to eat inside, and I have confidence that it’s a solid dive despite only being able to try a couple things.
I must say that it just topped the stereotype off by operating as a mini Mexican specialty store. It kind of brought me back to memories of hole in the wall Mochikas Peruvian Cafe in Vancouver, BC, which is also a restaurant/mini Latin food store located in a car wash!
Anyways, regarding the food, if this is what an authentic Mexican taco is, then I haven’t had one until this day. Oh my. It was so different than anything I’ve had before and it just had authentic written all over it. Nothing was dumbed down and it was just one of those places you know is legit.
I recently blogged about TacoFino Cantina Taco Truck (Baja style tacos) and La Taqueria (authentic Mexican tacos) in Vancouver, and this was just in a whole new category. Any place I ever considered authentic suddenly didn’t seem authentic at all. I use that word lightly, but I do think it’s fair to say there are different levels of authenticity. However, just because it was more authentic it doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed it more, although I certainly appreciated it!
I feel really strongly about this restaurant and I feel even more deprived of real Mexican food than I did before. Being in Vancouver, we don’t get much of it, and this just showed me what exactly I was missing out on!
On the table:
- I repeat, “if this is what an authentic Mexican taco is, then I haven’t had one until this day”. I mean it!
- Even the way they served it was different! It came with 2 home made salsas, raw radishes, and 2 deep fried chives, which were freaking delicious!
- The chives were very oily as expected, but soft and sweet rather than crispy and I’ve never had tacos served with them before.
- It came with 3 tacos and each had the double corn tortilla shell, as they should, but they were a bit larger than the traditional ones we’d get at places like La Taqueria or Doña Cata Mexican Food in Vancouver.
- Each taco was generously filled with lots of carnitas (slow roasted and shredded fried pork).
- I saw the cook fry the carnitas meat which was soaking in oil, but it was probably one of the most tender carnitas I’ve had.
- It was huge chunks of juicy and tender pork and almost equal amount of fat.
- I’ve never seen a taco served with so much fat, but I have a feeling this is how it’s authentically served in Mexico. They certainly didn’t bother “dumbing it down” for North American palates.
- It was super blubbery, but it was so well roasted and braised that the fat was 100% creamy and tender and not chewy at all. It literally melted in my mouth, although I admit I didn’t eat all of it. It was just way too rich and greasy for me.
- This was almost 100% pork’s belly rather than pork shoulder or pork butt. It was oozing out pork oils and juices, not just grease, and it had a ton of flavour.
- It had some cilantro, onions and tomatoes, but I wanted some pickled red onions or something to cut the immense amount of fat.
- Although it was authentic, my Westernized taste buds did prefer less fat.
- I give it an “A” for authenticity, but an “F” for my arteries.
- It was almost like how they serve duck in Asia… SUPER fatty over there, but in North America it’s less fat, and that’s how the majority of people prefer it here.
- Chilies in walnut sauce $15
- This was the special of the day and chances of finding it in Vancouver are slim, but they do exist throughout certain States and of course in Mexico.
- It’s a traditional Mexican dish that’s popular for Mexican Independence Day as it resembles the Mexican flag. The green part is the pepper, the red is the pomegranate seeds, and the white is the walnut cream sauce.
- It was a gigantic poblano peppers stuffed with shredded meat and topped with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.
- It was a very substantial, oily and rich dish, but I loved it.
- This was considered quite a gourmet version too and it was very impressive coming from a place like this.
- This wasn’t even that authentic, and it came with a bit of a twist because the sauce was made with cheese which is not traditional.
- It was served with black beans, Mexican rice, fresh guacamole and shredded iceberg lettuce, which was the salad.
- Originally it came with shredded or ground beef, but I requested carnitas just because it was so delicious in the tacos. It’s popular to be served with pork too.
- The pork for this dish should usually have cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin seasonings, but because the pork was from the carnitas, it didn’t.
- The giant pepper was roasted until it was blistering, charred and caramelized with smoky and sweet flavours. It’s not a spicy pepper.
- The pepper was then deep fried and stuffed with a very generous amount of canitas.
- The carnitas was just as soft, tender, juicy and melt in your mouth delicious as it was in the tacos.
- It was a tender smoky pepper with savoury and juicy roasted fried pork and onions.
- It was covered in a sweet walnut sauce that was made with some combination of evaporated milk, cream, port, and four kinds of cheese.
- The walnut cream sauce was made with some blue cheese, goat cheese, Mexican Cotija cheese, and another type of cheese I couldn’t pin point.
- It was a salty and sweet sauce but the cheese was very subtle, so it was more sweet than cheesy, and again the addition of cheese is a modern twist.
- It wasn’t as nutty as I wanted it and I couldn’t tell there were blended walnuts in the sauce at all. I’m quite sure the sauce can get better.
- I was hoping for it to be topped with some actual walnuts and almonds as well. Traditionally there are some almonds used in this dish.
- Eating the pork with the pomegranate seeds was almost like having turkey with cranberries.
- The whole thing was quite greasy and creamy, but the flavours worked well together, especially if you like sweet and savoury combinations.
- The owners were really sweet and they gave me samples of their Mexican drinks.
- Hibiscus Tea – This was more like a hibiscus juice and it was served cold. It wasn’t particularly different than other ones I’ve tried before, but it’s still good. It’s not as sweet as it looks since it is tea based.
- Agua Fresca De Tamarindo (Fresh Tamarind) Drink – This drink is also served cold and it’s made from fresh tamarind pods. It’s a sour drink and it kind of reminded me of sour plums. That’s the flavour of tamarind anyways. I think it was sweetened with a little bit of honey too. It was nice and refreshing and went well with all the greasy food I was having.
- They had a couple home made flans, but I decided to purchase something from their “supermarket”.
- I love pistachio so I went for a classic brand of a Mexican style popsicle.
- It’s more like an ice milk bar and it reminded me of Indian Kulfi ice cream.
- It’s dense and quite thick and there’s isn’t a whole lot of real pistachio, but I did get some pistachio nuts in it. It was pretty good for $1!