Dining at El Noa Noa last Friday was like dropping in on fam in the country when they were not expecting you. It was summertime, so the house was nearly deserted inside. Everyone was outside on the large patio, enclosed by brick walls and ironwork gates, sitting at tables under the trees, chatting and drinking and eating.
A three-man band played guitar and two pan flutes in a corner, but nobody clapped until we did. A conga drum lay on its side in front of one musician. In between songs, the sound of the waterfall soothed us.
The waiters were content that we had arrived but were not going to get worked up about it. They brought what we asked for and then became engrossed in other things.
I ordered a shot of Tesoro de Don Felipe añejo and enjoyed its smoky goodness, as usual. (The first time I ever had it was at 3 Margaritas, in a tiny brandy snifter too small to accommodate my nose. This time, thankfully, the tequila came in a shot glass.) The chips were nothing special, though according to Todd they were homemade, and the salsa was medium.
In an unusual turn of events, I had no desire for mole, so I chose the tacos de pescado, which consisted of 4 small tacos with tilapia in a garlic sauce. The fish was light and moist, and the entire taco tasted like garlic and onion; the sweet onion sauce (served in a plastic mustard bottle) and the chipotle (in a ketchup bottle) were both too sweet and completely unnecessary. The tacos had plenty of flavor (perhaps a bit too much) on their own.
Todd ordered the steak tampiqueña plate, featuring a skirt steak that was tender and dusted with cumin, a cheese enchilada, rice, and beans.
Once we had eaten enough of our meals to actually see the plates, we noticed they were that familiar Pfaltzgraff brown-on-ivory pattern—another reminder of childhood left behind. And finally, when I asked for flan for dessert, the waiter said—regretfully, I would like to think—that they had run out and were making more at that very moment. He asked if I would like sopapillas, but I said no.
By the end of dinner, I was so relaxed I couldn’t get too worked up about the missing flan either. Instead we went home and dreamt of Mexican beaches on the Riviera Maya, and we were content.