Tonight for dinner my wife and I visited Ahora (307 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa) to try some Mexican food.
We entered at 4:45 P.M., welcomed by a Spanish server, handed menus and led to our seats. She politely explained that when we were ready please come up to the counter and place our order.
Our seats were right next to the cafeteria style counter featuring a cash register, drink glasses if you wished tap water, and an open salsa bar to add toppings to your meal.
The restaurant itself was based in the basement of a commercial building on Dalhousie Street. The restaurant itself, once you descended the stairs, was brightly coloured every colour of the rainbow in shiny ceramic tiles. It looked like a tiled basement with a happy rainbow gone wild.
We perused the menues and decided on our orders within five minutes. We took the menus up the cash where the server typed our order into the cash register.
The Order: 1 Taco Taco (2 Tacos: 1 Chicken & 1 Steak along with Soft corn tortillas filled with salsa gringa, cheese and avocado) with chips and a can of Coke and 1 Burrito Del Polo (with Chicken, cheese, salsa gringa, guacamole) with rice and a can of Sprite.
It took about five minutes for our food to be brought out to us by our server. We then had to get up and approach the salsa bar to peruse our choices of salsa, add salsa and have a seat to enjoy our meal. On our visit there were eight different choices of salsa to choose from.
I carefully rolled up my chicken soft taco and took a bight. The chicken was delicious and coupled with freshly sliced vegetables and avocado. The avocado interestingly was a whole slice instead of mushed into guacamole. The only complaint was the taco juice now escaping from the other end. Good thing I had my plate there as it caught the juice escaping. The escaping taco juice may also explain the use of the aformentioned tiles throughout the restaurant as they are easier to clean escaping taco juice from than other surfaces. A word to the wise, carfully fold up the other end of the soft taco shell to prevent juice spillage.
I strategically rolled up the steak taco shell to prevent juice slippage. Another fine taco with the steak grilled. I could tell that the steak nor the chicken was freshly grilled as the time to prepare these is obviously longer than the five minutes it took to put together both meals. This is really the only improvement food wise I would make to better our culinary visit. But the chicken was moist and but not over or under cooked.
The chips were basic mexican corn chips you would find at any Mexicali Rosa's (what ever happened to the Ottawa locations of Mexicali Rosa's I used to enjoy on a weekly basis? In fact they are not even in Ontario anymore!) The chips were great to use to experiment with a couple of the salsas from the Salsa Bar. The only thing needed to be added was optionals sour cream. Sadly this wasn't available.
The soft drinks though were a dissapointment. Yes they were the same regular 355 ml cans you would normally buy at any store, but at $1.95 each it seemed a little expensive. I hate to see what the 1.5 litre bottles of Coke were selling for.
The Burrito and rice dish were enjoyed by my wife. She said it was mediocre but was willing to revisit Ahora again as a possible fast food option. This leads to another question, is this a sit down place or a fast food location?
Quite frankly this is inconclusive as you are welcomed and shown to a table like any sit down restaurant. But you are invited to come up to the counter once you have selected something in order to place your order like a fast food or cafeteria. Then you are served your meal at your table by the server like a dine in establishment. Yet you return to the salsa bar at the same counter you left from placing your order in the first place. It is confusing if this a true fast food place or a dine in option.
Overall, Ahora provides decent but not extroardinary take on Mexican cuisine in Ottawa. It is not the best Mexican place to visit, but it also isn't the worst either. I wouldn't call it mediocre as the food is better than that, but I wouldn't call it the best either. I'm left pleasantly perplexed where exactly on the "good" scale it ranks.
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