“What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others.” Carlos FuentesThere is no consensus on the best Mexican restaurant in Prague. But more often than not, you'll hear the name Cantina.
The place has been around for a long time and has a good location near the heart of Malá Strana.The combination of location plus reputation means it is almost always full.
Showing up without a reservation at this relatively small place often means you will be turned away.So, I was surprised when we were able to snag a table for lunch on a weekend afternoon.For a long time, I'd been wanting to see why some people like it so much. I ate there once many years ago and wasn't terribly impressed.
When the waiter came over, V ordered a bottle of Corona with lime, and I reflexively said to make it two.
I know she ordered this beer for nostalgic reasons, but I felt regret as soon as the waiter left.
First, it was way overpriced (85 CZK). Second, it is not good beer.
It's like drinking a club soda with lime, which is pleasant enough, but not worth the money. Still, it reminded us of old times back in the USA, and that's worth something.
For a starter, I had the Sopa Azteca (50 CZK). It is described as a traditional Indian soup with beans, corn, tomatoes, nachos, and cheese.Disappointing.
It was seriously bland. I ended up doing the seasoning myself, first adding salt, and then throwing in plenty of the hot sauce on the table. It was OK after that.
The finely shredded white cheese was pretty to look at, but very annoying to eat. It melted into the soup, and when you tried to eat it, it left strings of gooey cheese on your chin with every bite. I need to use a knife with my soup?
I ordered a frozen margarita (120 CZK). Terrible.
There was almost no flavor.
It was desperately lacking in lime and even sweetness. It just tasted like a tequila slushee.
At least there was plenty of alcohol in there to help me forget.
For a main course, I had the quesadilla lomitas (230 CZK). A fried flour tortilla was filled with cheese, pork tenderloin, green onion, cilantro, and jalapenos.Another disappointment.
I thought the pork was cut too thick, and I really didn't taste any marination or seasoning beside salt. There was hardly any cilantro. The green onions were overcooked and lost their flavor.
The whole thing just bored me. If it wasn't for the jalapenos, I would have fallen asleep.
V ordered the mixed chicken and beef fajitas (289 CZK). It came out on an iron skillet. It was hot, but lacked the spectacle of a full sizzle.On the side, they served little dishes of refried black beans, sour cream, and red rice with a few sad corn niblets thrown in.
There was also a small amount of unremarkable guacamole.
The meat picked up a lot of flavor from heavy seasoning, but we wished it got more from charring in the pan. There was a ton of onions and peppers.
The whole thing came with two large flour tortillas, but we had order one extra to eat it all. Overall, it was pretty good, but nothing special.
The brightest spot of the lunch was the service. Very friendly, attentive, and efficient. I'll admit, in a place so popular and busy, I expected less. A pleasant surprise.I can now check Cantina off my "to do" list. There's nothing there that would make me go out of my way to return.
Personally, I've never really had good Mexican food in Prague, so there's not a lot of competition.
Why do some people think Cantina is the best Mexican in Prague?
Don't ask me. I can't understand them.
Prague 1 - Malá Strana
Tel. (+420) 257 317 173