Did you know that Helsinki has many good quality and authentic Mexican restaurants? It all started a few years ago with a hole in the wall, Café de Nopal. After years of mundane tex-mex food, us Finns got very excited about the real thing and you could say that these days the mex-mex scene is booming!
Last week, a Finnish magazine carried out a taco test among seven Mexican restaurants in Helsinki. In my opinion, not all of them are authentic mex-mex but I digress. To my delight and not surprisingly, the winner was my favourite – Taqueria el Rey. Yay!
El Rey is quite a small restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. As it’s now on every taco lovers list, I recommend you book a table in advance.
As if I’d totally timed this – I had reserved a table from the restaurant for the very same weekend as the taco test results were disclosed. I had already visited the restaurant last year with girlfriends and now I wanted to introduce el Rey to hubby and our friends. As you can see, I was mighty pleased with myself.
El Rey makes awesome cocktails (mocktails too if that’s more your thing). As you know, I cannot say no to a good cocktail. I had a Smoky Mezcal and my friend a Sour Mezcal. Mezcal is an alcohol made from a Mexican plant – the maguey, which Wikipedia tells me is a form of agave. Mezcal has a smoky flavour which goes well with cocktails but I must admit that I’m not a fan of having it straight. However, I recommend you go for the House Margarita, if you haven’t tasted it yet – it’s a mix of tequila blanco, lime and hibiscus syrup.
We opted to go for the tasting menu, as it’s the best way to sample different dishes. At el Rey, either the whole party has the tasting menu or then everyone has their own individual dishes from the à la carte.
We started off with guacamole, served in a traditional molcajete dish and home-made tortilla chips. Unfortunately I cannot eat avocados so instead I got a tuna empanada all for myself, yum. The whole while we had three different salsas to choose from. And there was an abundance of lime wedges. That made me happy, as I think that there’s no such thing as too much lime.
Next Cevice de Salmón, one of my favourites. The salmon is marinated and cooked in lime juice spiced with chili, ginger, coriander and seaweed caviar. I was in a rush to take the photographs – as we all wanted to concentrate on eating – thus you will just have to imagine the salmon underneath all that onion.
Sopesitos de Chorizo. Corn sopes with smashed beans, chorizo, lettuce, creme fraiche and queso fresco. I adore queso fresco – if you have any idea where to find it in Helsinki, let me know. I absolutely love these little bites.
As I’d had this menu before, I knew what to expect. Being quite a fussy customer, I requested if we could have the Taco de Pescado (fish tacos) grilled instead of deep fried. Kudos to the friendly waiter who didn’t bat an eyelid at my demands. I’m not a fan of anything deep fried as it’s just way too heavy and tastes stuffy. This way, the fish tacos tasted fresh and so much better.
By the way, if you are vegetarian, you will get alternative dishes when the meat tacos or sopes are presented. I love meat tacos though, so don’t miss them if you eat meat. Here you can see Taco de Pastor. Pork topped with pineapple salsa. Oh, how delicious pineapple salsa is!
If I were to have only one dish from the menu, it would be the Taco de Nopal. This is a cactus taco! How cool is that. I had never tasted cactus before I visited el Rey and I must say I was very surprised to find how good it is.
Oh yes – let’s not forget dessert! Flan. This was my friend’s favourite out of the menu. I also had a cappuccino on the side.
Hubby went for the Mezcal, which was served with orange wedges. You can also order some tequila if you like.
Great cocktails, awesome food, warm customer service, a relaxed atmosphere – if the taco test results did not convince you to go, this should!
Taqueria el Rey is located in the same neighbourhood as Alfon’s Pizza and Restaurant Regina. El Rey serves lunch from Tuesdays to Fridays from 11-2 pm. How unfortunate that my office is nowhere near, otherwise I’d be a weekly customer. For dinner, they are open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 5-11 pm.
Are you a fan of Mexican food? What kind of tacos do you prefer?