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La Fiesta
5179 Côte-des-Neiges

Tel.: 737-6737
Bueno. A new Mexican restaurant, formerly La Mancha. This is still hybrid, not sure of where it is going. Paella on the menu along with enchiladas and fajitas. Mariachis playing Friday and Saturday evenings. Eh hombre! Está muy fantastico. Si? Perhaps.

Brightly tiled floors and adobe and azule coloured walls. Close your eyes just a bit and we could be in Oaxaca. Molé on the menu, yes that too. Lunch was a look-see. We tried the enchiladas and found them good but not great, the antijitos (appetizer) platter solid but here is what is missing: basic essence. Monterey Jack is the cheese of choice here and it is bland when there is good Mexican style white cheese (which is both saltier and sweeter and melts better) available in town but is more expensive. Canned nopales (which was vinegary), bottled chipotle sauce. Un poco Canadiense, si? Yup.

This place is fine for a feeling of Mexican food. But there is also veal and fresh fish on the luncheon menu along with grilled lamb chops, mussels and eggplant au gratin. Hello? The neighbourhood includes U of M so there is a great young crowd to support restaurants on this part of Côte-des-Neiges. The menu, by the way, is uniformly French, which may be a problem for the unilingual, although the waiters say they can explain the menu in English.

Luncheon prices are decent. $9.95 will get your a plate of tortillas stuffed with chicken and sauce—enchiladas verdes. $6.95 gets good grilled chicken, salad and rice. Not bad. Dinner prices are from $7.95 for the chicken to $26.95 for a seafood paella that includes half a lobster.

Although La Fiesta's antecedents are Spanish, the menu does lean strongly to the Mexican side of the ledger. This restructuring is relatively new, the waiters speak Spanish, the kitchen seems to know what it is doing.

Back at La Fiesta last night with the family. Nachos, ceviche, guacomole, all the old standards plus a side order of frijoles which tastes more canned than refried and a pollo poblano.

These are all dishes basic to the repetoire of Mexican cooking. They were all good but none was outstanding. The ceviche was in a good lime marinade with lots of morsels of firm white fish, squid and a plate of salad. The beans were kidney, heated and topped with cheese. The nachos were quite good. This place makes its own tortillas (flour served with dinner, corn for the nachos) and they were baked with plenty of beans and cheese sandwiched between the tortilla triangles. The guacamole was good and tasted fresh. We had an overly sweetened half-litre of Sangria. Fruit for this drink was served separately, which was a nice touch. We got an alcohol-free marguerita for mi niña which was also much appreciated. Service, by the way, was very friendly, as we are used to in Mexico, and they seem to like kids here.

My main course was a great bbqed chicken, the taste of charcoal on the skin, one of the best I have had in town. Served with a heaping side of good rice and a salad. The poblano sauce, which added $5 to the price of this dish, was insipid and not worth it. A good molé should be cooked with the chicken, at least for the last half hour. This was spooned on top. Still, I'd go back for the chicken. Probably try anything else off the grill too—lamb chops, steak, fish if it was there.

Portions are large. We had much too much food. Dessert that came with the main course included a fresh fruit cup, likely what was served with the sangria, and a decent crème caramel, the national dessert of Mexico. There was also an excellent strawberry cheesecake. Very New York style and quite a nice surprise. We had coffee, which was okay, and again, a special order of hot chocolate for Sarah.

As I said, great for kids and families. Most dinners are under $15 at night. Well worth it. Good value.
Reviewed by Barry Lazar

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