I’d been to Carlito Burrito before and really enjoyed it. In fact, I’d written it up as one of my recent great eats. I’d been meaning to revisit with a friend for a while, but last time we attempted it they were so rammed we ended up shovelling a dirty burger at Meat Liquor instead (there are worse fates). So when our plan to while away many hours with good wine and food at Plateau fell through (they were already closed for the festive period, oops) we decided to see if we had better luck at Carlito on the second attempt. Turns out – for two people whose jobs involve organising other people, we’re not very good at organising ourselves.
We arrived about 18:30 and managed to nab the last table for two: so far so good. We settled in with some very tasty mojitos and it didn’t take long for me to choose what I wanted: I pretty much always go for tacos pibil (slow cooked pork shoulder in achiote, lime and OJ) when I have Mexican (CB’s version are £6.50) and the Octopussy (octopus, black beans and chorizo with habanero – £8.50) had been so good the last time I came I had to order it again.
The tacos came fairly quickly and looked good (sorry for the rubbish picture). They were absolutely stuffed with meat, which pleased me. However, turns out they were a little too stuffed, even for my liking: all the meat couldn’t be contained within the tacos and sort of splodged out the sides, which didn’t make for very pleasant eating. The pork itself was OK, although a little stringy and FAR too orangey: the orange should be a background, almost imperceptible addition that brings a little lift to the dish, not one of the key flavours.
Next came the Octopussy. Oh dear. What had happened? It was SO good the last time I ate it: silky soft octopus, and plenty of it, with a lovely smokiness from the chorizo and habanero that had been absorbed by the black bean sauce to make a really delicious, moreish dish. This time…my main gripe was the octopus itself: it was chewy. Really chewy. It was pretty off-putting, being faced with such a big pile of unappealing suckers. And the sauce, too, was nowhere near as good as previously: watery and with none of the lovely smoky depth it had had before. Disappointing. A decent side of garlic and chilli fried green beans helped distract me, but there was no way I could finish this plate.
Unfortunately, we then waited a good half an hour to have our plates cleared, despite multiple attempts to get the waitress’ attention (and I could have done with another beer, too! Always think it’s so ridiculous when bad service ends up costing places money in lost orders, especially somewhere as small as this). So, in the end, we moved the plates to the table next to us (I really hate being sat too long with dirty plates – and all those tentacles were hard to ignore). These were immediately cleared, and I could tell by the looks on their faces that staff thought we had been rude, but we’d been pretty patient and it wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d been a bit more on the ball.
So Carlito Burrito didn’t really live up to previous visit. I really don’t want to dismiss it: I love Mexican food and my Oaxacan friend swears it’s some of the best she’s ever eaten outside of Mexico – and she obviously knows her stuff! But this experience was so different from my last it makes me doubt the level of consistency, which is SO important. Perhaps I was there on a bad night, or perhaps I’d been lucky before. I think ‘best out of three’ visit might have to decide it for me either way…
*I did go back for a third deciding visit – you can read my thoughts here
Carlito Burrito, 12 York Place, Brighton BN1 4GU