Hard pressed to be exceptional.
The Tortilla Press – Collingswood, NJ
Price: $50 (For Two – Excludes Tip)
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 8pm
Website and Menu: Right Here
We were in the mood for some good Mexican, and read a few nice reviews of the Tortilla Press in Collingswood. Located on Haddon Ave in the heart of the aesthetically pleasing downtown, parking is a little tricky on a weekend and you’ll have to get lucky with a street meter spot or just grab a spot at the PATCO station and take a short walk. Reservations are recommended, although we had no problem walking right in and getting a table within a few minutes. We did get a glance at the reservation sheet and noticed an army of no-shows. As with any restaurant in Collingswood, there’s no alcohol available, but you’re welcome to bring your own.
The atmosphere inside is nice, but it can be cramped with a full house. Expect lots of light yellows and reds to compliment the Mexican theme; even the napkins are pink (that’s like a combination of the two, right?). Our table and the surrounding area was very clean, and the service was genuinely polite. After being greeted with a menu, we received a small – but easily refilled – basket of tortillas and side of salsa and black bean dip. The proportion of salsa to bean dip was a bit lacking, which was disappointing since the salsa was excellent. The waitress was very knowledgeable about the store menu and made some recommendations based on what we stated our interests were. I decided to order the pan seared and crusted sushi-grade tuna, and Autumn tried the chicken entomatadas (like an enchilada – except with tomato sauce instead of chili sauce).
Despite the near full house, we received our meals in about 15 minutes. We were both pleased with the presentation of the dishes. Digging in, though, we started to think the coronation of this establishment by many of the local papers may be premature. My tuna, cooked a perfect medium rare with a delicious side of pineapple salsa, simply wasn’t as good as it should have been. Compared to my favorite ahi tuna offering at Bahama Breeze, this was a distant second. Since I can’t blame the cooking (a red, rare center with medium-well edges) my only guess is that Bahama Breeze sources a better tasting fish. The Tortilla Press accompanied the fish with winter vegetables (zucchini and squash mostly) and chipolte mashed potatoes. The potatoes had a neat flavor, but were on the dry side. The vegetable and portion sizes were very acceptable.
Autumn’s entomatadas disappointed her a little bit. She found them fairly bland, and although further research suggests that are supposed to be less spicy than an enchilada (which uses chili sauce), it doesn’t mean they should be lacking flavor. Presented as a trio drizzled with sour cream sauce, Autumn opted against the black bean side and doubled up her rice. The chicken inside was pretty good and it was moist, but considering that Autumn asked the waitress what the dish was prior to ordering, she should have mentioned that they are on the bland side. The rice was only a step above something I could make at home. We thought everything seemed ‘fresh’, but we would have preferred an overall better experience of taste.
We held out for dessert, as we overheard some of the specials and they sounded delicious. Autumn tried the strawberry tangle – a scoop of vanilla ice cream, smothered in strawberries, sitting on top cinnamon/sugar strips. Despite the difficulty in figuring out how to approach eating the long, thin cinnamon strips, we liked the flavors together. My selection was the Mexican brownie, which was more cake-like than anything. Served with your choice of ice cream (I recommend the coffee), it lacked both the richness and moistness needed to make it memorable. Much to my chagrin, they were out of churros – by far my favorite mexican pastry.
– Polite service
– Good location (some great views of downtown Collingswood)
– Food not much better than cheaper competitors
– Limited seating
– Lots of wandering management, chefs, etc..
Guru’s Score: 2.7
Autumn’s Score: 2.9
Combined Score: 2.8 Chews
Subjective rating: A siesta.
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