Karachi’s Mexican Cuisine – Bienvenido A Habanero!

‘MexicHabanero an food’, synonymous with spice; your mind automatically thinks of chili peppers, tequila, corn, beans, pineapple, and so much more. Authentic Mexican food is unlike any other, however, there are numerous variations of the same, but Mexican food still remains one that is very much enjoyed.

The front of the Habanero Menu

The front of the Habanero Menu

A new place that recently popped up in Karachi is ‘Habanero’, situated off Khayaban – e – Shahbaz; upon entering, there is a certain atmosphere which is immediately set; a clean and quaint spot. On your right there is a mosaic of, what appears to be, an image of a hardboiled egg cut in half. On the opposite side of the restaurant there are pictures of various dishes. There are also welcoming staff members to greet you as you walk in and escort you to your seats.

Interior with the mosaic on the wall on the far left.

Interior with the mosaic on the wall on the far left.

On the table, you won’t find the common bottles of ketchup or chili garlic sauce. No, there are two small bottles of Caribbean hot sauces, from the company El Yucateco; by the name of Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero. One bottle is red habanero, with a deep red shade; and the other in a bright green, of green habanero. [Just FYI, Green habanero peppers are ones that are unripe and the common colors are red or orange, which are ripened.]The two bottles of Chili Sauce from El Yucateco

The two bottles of Chili Sauce from El Yucateco

Just for those who aren’t aware of various types of chili peppers, a habanero is an extraordinarily hot pepper, which has been rated 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville Scale, which is a measurement used for the spicy heat of chili peppers and other spicy foods.

This is what a habanero pepper looks like

This is what a habanero pepper looks like

Just so you have an idea as to its intensity and heat, on the Scoville scale, a jalapeno pepper has only 1,000-4,000 Scoville Heat Units. And rated the world’s hottest chili pepper since August 2013, is the Carolina Reaper, which is a hybrid/crossbreed of the Habanero and the Ghost chili, and exceeds 1 million with 1,600,000-2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units.

Scoville Scale of a few chili peppers

Scoville Scale of a few chili peppers

Coming back to the two bottles of hot sauce on the table; I had a feeling that they would be awfully spicy based not only on the intense colors of each bottle, but also the strong spiced smell of the sauces. I placed a few drops in my plate and used the tip of one prong of my fork to taste it; and it was a sudden explosion of red-hot heat and chili. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

Scoville Scale used to measure the spicy heat of peppers

Scoville Scale used to measure the spicy heat of peppers

At Habanero, I ordered a quesadilla, nachos – Spicy for the starters, and for the main, enchiladas. I was a bit hesitant to order nachos due to the fact that some places that I have been to who claim to serve nachos use Doritos (yes, the chips you get from your local gas station or store) instead of tortilla chips. Habanero, on the other hand, used tortilla chips and they were fresh and crunchy; clearly not left over or stored for a prolonged period of time.

Starter - Nachos - Spicy

Starter – Nachos – Spicy

Layered on the tortilla chips were refried beans, marinated and seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños, sweet corn, grated cheese, tomato salsa and sour cream. The nachos were delicious and fun to eat since most Mexican food requires a ‘hands-on’ kind of an approach.

The sour cream, nacho cheese and tomato salsa which were poured on the nachos, were also given in small bowls on the side, in case we wanted more… which we did! Long story short: not a single drop went to waste.

Closer Close-up of the Nachos

Closer Close-up of the Nachos

Because the nachos were labeled ‘spicy’ on the menu and the waiter warned us of the same, we hesitantly took small bites, just so that we eased our way into the spicy flavours. However, the ground beef was far from spicy; rather it was quite bland. After speaking with the Manager, we notified him what a letdown the meat was and how it was exceedingly mild and nearly tasteless. He explained to us that people initially wanted it spicier and then it became too spicy and they were forced, due to the customers’ feedback, to make it the way that it currently is. He informed us that he would happily make another order if we weren’t satisfied with the current one.

One of the walls

One of the walls

Though the offer was quite tempting, we decided to simply voice our opinions and how it should neither be too spicy, nor too bland; a balance should be struck; and left it at that. And moved on to the next dish!

“Birds’ Eye” View of the Quesadilla =P

The quesadilla was cut into quartered triangles and were nicely fanned out, accompanied with that delicious salsa and sour cream. The tortilla used was very soft and not gummy or pasty as you bit into it, with meat in the middle and cheese. The tomato salsa was amazing! It was bright red; so vibrant in color and taste.

Starter - Quesadilla

Starter – Quesadilla

There were two large Enchiladas, smothered in cheese and a tomato-based sauce, and pickled jalapenos on top. When placed in front of us, we were overwhelmed and trying to figure out where to begin! Though there were two enchiladas, side by side on the plate, they were enormous! It became apparent that this is a dish for two people, rather than one.

Main Course - Enchiladas Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course – Enchiladas
Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course - Enchiladas

Main Course – Enchiladas

After slicing into it, it we were greeted with juicy pieces of beef steak, marinated and absolutely delicious. There was a mix of various spices; grated cheese, chopped onions, salsa; and it wasn’t too spicy. One thing that really could have been taken into account was the bottom of the enchiladas.

Main Course  - Enchiladas Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

Main Course – Enchiladas
Yes, there are TWO under that thick blanket of cheese and salsa

The bottom portion of the enchiladas, which is the portion that stayed on the bottom when the pan went under the broiler in order to melt the cheese, was very soggy and gummy. It was actually a bit difficult to eat due to its thick and had an unusual texture.

Habanero, as a new establishment, is very nicely set up with courteous staff; and I wish I had the chance of trying the aforementioned dishes prior to the changes made as per customer demands. If you wish to try Mexican food, then this place would be a great place to visit IF you notify the waiter/manager that you would like it to be spicier than what it currently is. If they have already amended the spice levels, then a new review is in order. Moreover, the sauces, however, are exceptionally wonderful and full of flavour!