Lovin’ La Villa like loco

In case you missed it, here’s my review of La Villa Taqueria that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

As much as I love French and Italian food, there’s really only so much a guy can take of either. I reached my tipping point last week, and made my rounds to local Mexican restaurants.

After a couple disappointing dinners, I was ready to throw in the towel. Then there was a glimmer of hope over in Seaside: Rosa’s La Villa Taqueria.

Seaside is home to some great hidden gems, like Rosa's La Villa Taqueria.

Just walking in, I knew I was in good hands — the atmosphere was fun and eclectic.

Looking over the menu, I wasn’t sure what to order, so I figured one of the combination plates was my ticket to trying as much of the menu as possible. I picked combo No. 1 with a chile relleno, enchilada and pork tamal ($11.95).

A combo plate seemed like the easiest way to try more of the menu.

(Lest my father start rolling in his grave, let’s get something straight, there is no such thing as a “tamale” — the proper singular form is a tamal. So you have one tasty tamal or many tasty tamales. Got it? Good.)

The tamal ($2 a la carte) had a nice flavor from the shredded pork cooked with red chilies. The masa had a nice texture that was appropriately light and meaty, walking that fine line before becoming gummy and greasy.

I've really been on a tamal kick lately, haven't I?

I was disappointed that my tamal didn’t come in its corn husk wrapper — there’s nothing more satisfying than unwrapping a fresh tamal, no?

Next up was the enchilada ($3.95 a la carte, $10.95 for two with rice and beans). I ordered mine with chicken, a la Adelita, with the green tomatillo sauce.

The sauce was applied very lightly, and had mild flavor. Next time I’ll order these enchiladas with a dollop of sour cream for extra body.

The cheese was gooey outside, and inside was a generous portion of chicken. Sure, I had a couple tough bites, but the shredded chicken was a major improvement over the cubed chicken served in many local Mexican restaurants.

The only item that truly disappointed was the chile relleno ($4.50 a la carte, $11.95 for two with rice and beans). Maybe it’s because I got to it last, but the light breading was a little slimy.

Texture aside, the pepper itself was sweet, but left a bitter aftertaste, and I thought it was a little light on fillings.

Chips and salsa were good too--the chips were multigrain and the salsa sweet and spicy.

You can tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant by the little things, like rice and tortillas. The rice that came with my combo plate was quite good — moist, flavorful and surprisingly light.

And the accompanying tortillas were homemade and mighty tasty. I wish they had arrived in a tortilla box to keep them steamy. When I first took a bite, they were superb, but over the course of my meal, they took a turn for the worse sitting out on a plate.

And no meal at a Mexican restaurant is complete without a bottle of lime Jarritos if you ask me.

Little shops like La Villa Taqueria remind me that Seaside has some great restaurants — if you just know where to look.

This shop was nearly empty when I was here, and it’s a shame because it’s a tasty taqueria. This taqueria now has my full attention, and I’ll definitely be back to try more of the menu.

La Villa Taqueria, 766 Broadway Ave., Seaside, 920-4979, rosaslavilla.com.

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