By Ian Graves
After I spent two weeks straight consuming unpalatable food from Mojo dining hall, my taste buds finally got a treat when Wolverine Cuizine kicked off the new semester by going to Isalita (technically Jolly Pumpkin was the first dinner, but that was before the winter mass meeting). From it’s wooden exterior, to the large picture of elderly Mexican farmers on a brick wall, to its semi-neon green bar, this place instantly gave off the “cantina” vibe it was going for. The menu, although only one page in length, contained a good amount of the Mexican food fixings that we all know and love including an assortment of tacos, quesadillas, and seafood. The names were traditional, but the menu gave off a street food vibe that was “dressed up” a bit. This was seen most notably in the truffle guacamole.
Now, I am always interested in trying things with truffle in them, especially those truffle fries from Jolly Pumpkin (see Bowen’s article about those), but lately it seems that some restaurants like to throw truffle in anything just to make it “fancy” or “creative” so they can then charge $5 extra for it. My skepticism, however, was completely negated by the fact that we would be having guac, so I kept my mind open to the interesting sounding combo. I feel that salsa and guac are the first big indicators of the quality of a Mexican restaurant so a fair amount was riding on their guacamole, but I do have to say, I was more or less pleasantly surprised with its taste. I couldn’t really properly describe what that taste was, but it had an added depth of flavor from the truffle. Pretty good overall, but the dish was a bit expensive at a price of $10. The accompanying chips (I presume homemade) had the perfect crunch and saltiness and went great with the smooth guac.
After a long conversation about which Umich schools corresponded to each Harry Potter house (Ross=Slytherin, Engineering=Ravenclaw, Arts/Theatre=Hufflepuff, Premed/Nursing=Gryffindor), the food came. The first thing you always notice is the smell, and hot damn what an aroma! The smell of the savory sauces mixed with the fresh Mexican crema got me very excited to taste the well-presented dishes. We got the enchiladas and the sweet plantains and I gotta say that enchilada sauce was probably one of the best I have had. I like to think that the darker the color, the deeper and richer the flavor of the sauce, and that red sauce was a nice maroon color and I couldn’t get enough of it. The inside should have been cheesier, but the sauce made up for it. The plantains were equally as yummy. They were crunchy on the outside, sweet and smooth on the inside and went great with the enchilada sauce. I couldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of bananas out there, but those plantains did question my opinions.
Overall I would say I enjoyed Isalita Cantina Mexicana. The atmosphere was pretty cool and the enchilada sauce was top notch. They had described the menu as being semi “tapas” style but one item and a side was a good amount for dinner. (They will try to convince you to order more dishes by saying the portions are small- if you are a broke college student like I am, don’t listen to them.) On a scale from Markley sushi to Grandma’s Homemade Parkerhouse Rolls, I’ll say this one was “yummy” (above average), almost “scrumptious,” but definitely Yummy. Isalita won’t replace my weekly escapades to Chipotle, but I will most likely daydream about that enchilada sauce during P Chem.