One colorful building seemed to call out our names as we drove by it: Asi Es La Vida
As we slid into our booth I took it all in: cut glass artwork and tables set more for romantic dates than lunch meetings. A guitarist in the corner hunched over his instrument strumming Mexican folk songs. Oh, and just like all good Mexican restaurants, it was like sitting in the guts of a Rubik’s Cube – no two bright walls were the same color.
Before I could dwell on the schizophrenic paint, our waitstaff appeared. Prompt service! But then again there were only two other groups to serve. We were brought an artsy little circle of chips stuck on end into a mound of thick, creamy guacamole on a plate.
The chips tasted so good and homemade, I had to ask the guy who had brought us our watermelon drinks.
“Oh, they’re tostadas, not tortillas. But yes, we make them here.”
I was more surprised to find the lunch menu reasonably priced. Most meals were between $8 and $12. I settled on the enmolada dish, $9.95. I hadn’t tasted good mole and chicken in so long.
Then the guitarist began, “Cielito lindo…”
Ay ay ay! He’s playing the gringo touristy stuff!
I leaned in and asked if he knew any Café Tacuba.
“Sí, conozco Café Tacuba…”
Cool! I can hear something better.
“…Pero no sus canciones.”
He began to strum the notes to Neil Diamond’s Cherry, Cherry, singing in Spanish.
I kept glancing at our server as she sailed from table to table. At our table, I’d enjoy her accent and smile so much I had no idea what she actually said. Oh no! !Qué tonto! I confessed to my co-worker, “I think I have a crush on our server.” She just rolled her eyes at me, “uh-huh.”
Thankfully, our food was a wonderful distraction. The mole was rich, though a bit sweet for my taste. Rich Chihuahua cheese was layered throughout. But I didn’t understand the small chunks of limp iceberg lettuce sprinkled over the deep flavors of such a melty, rich mole dish. It was like… rust on a Ferrari.
For dessert we decided to sample the Tres Leches, apparently our server’s favorite:
“If you don’t like it, I’ll eat it,” she said, drifting away.
That’s when I realized I had been scribbling thoughts on a large notepad as I took bites of food. Oh. Damn. I really need work on this whole incognito food reviewing gig. The server probably caught on and was throwing extra kindness my way. The food could’ve tasted like cardboard for all I knew. Gracias a Dios, my co-worker was there to verify the good taste!
If you’re drawn to the colorful restaurant, Asi Es La Vida is a definite treat. Don’t be frightened by the silly shavings of lettuce on your dish – they’re easy enough to scrape off to the side. Just make sure the waitress doesn’t catch you – she’s pretty sharp, that one! I just hope I didn’t blow my cover.
As we waited for the bill, I decided this was not a lunch place. I’ll save my next visit for a romantic low-lit date. But it’ll have to be a sobering experience – the restaurant doesn’t serve any alcohol. After paying our bill, I turned to the guitarist’s tip jar and stuffed a healthy donation in as we ducked out. Maybe it would buy his silence.
And the food was so satisfying my co-worker was still cooing about her enchilada as we returned to work, and parked the car… and in the elevator up to our office.