Taco and Margarita festival – Arriba, New Delhi

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As I savoured the awesome Taco festival menu, my taste buds were grappling with my brain insofar to find a common thread among the dishes I was having that evening. Though all of them were “Mexican”, but there were Thai, Japanese, Indian ingredients in all of them and each morsel was full of flavour. But then it came to me that the dishes were sewn together by the sound of CRUNCH. And I think Mexican food is distinct not only in flavour but also in that happy crunchy sound, which sets the tongue salivating in anticipation.

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Chef Noah, the brilliant chef in charge here set me up with one his best cocktail creations (yes, he did the food and the cocktail menu, talk about versatile talent!), the smashing jalapeno margarita. It was a strong, spicy start but I loved it and got excited about what was to come next.

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I ordered a skinny taco salad that was all about the guess what! – crunch. Corn, salsa, iceberg and thin strips of taco came together and how. You must have had salads but none like this – fresh and memorable. The salad was not part of the menu but as the evening went on and the margaritas flowed, the evening became more about conversation about food and Chef Noah’s brilliance in balance and flavours.

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Even the festival’s tacos were outstanding, the tempura shrimp and the fish tikka among my favourites. The vegetarians wold love the roasted papaya tacos – trust me they taste much too different to remind your brain that you are actually eating papaya.

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Among the absolute must try’s is the pork belly. The crunchy, crackling top makes it I think. Many restaurants do pork belly but very few here in Delhi get the crackling right. Arriba did that and the flavours exploded especially with the honey chilli glaze. Pork belly is usually laced with many different sweet sauces (apple, cranberry etc) but the honey complimented the belly the best as it added to the meat without overpowering it.

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A trio of tortas (a mexican sandwich) arrived as sliders and if I had to pick one the pork would be it – smoky pork and burnt pineapple make the world feel better again.

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Try the panuchos for the crunch factor again but my favourite main came at the end when I had no space left in my apparently bottomless stomach. The El Polo Loco is a roast chicken par excellence and a must try when you come here.As Mexican as they come, try it and then thank me!

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Dessert was a beautiful tres leches cake and was how it should be – rich, heavy, full of milk and delicious, though my only complaint was that I wished the sponge was a little lighter and not the pound cake that it was.

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Go for the fulfilling tacos and the many wonderful margaritas but also try the food and the bar menu – it is hip, innovative and has lots of soul, much like Mexico itself.

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