The Guanaquita no es mu bonita

In the heart of downtown Kitchener, The Guanaquita Restaurant provides an authentic taste of the exquisite cuisine of El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.

Staples in Salvadoran cuisine include pupusa (handmade corn or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese), pastelitos (baked puff pastries), Yuca (deep fried cassava root), chicharron (fried baby sardines), empanadas (flour pastries filled with meat, potato, and cheese), and tamales (boiled pockets of corn dough). The Guanaquita also infuses its menu with Mexican cuisine, including tacos, nachos, taquitos, and quesadillas.

A Salvadoran family owns the restaurant, and a server who was the daughter of the owner greeted us. The service was extremely friendly and had extensive knowledge on navigating through the unique menu. We ate our meal on a patio overlooking a serene King Street as the sun set. There is also a dance floor, where dancing lessons take place during the week.

The menu was a chore to read; there were overlapping borders and boxes that reminded me of the days when pop-up ads were rampant on the internet, only this time there was no red “X” to close unwanted windows. This was mainly because of the different dishes and cuisines that the restaurant tried to serve; between “Traditional Salvadorean” and “Mexican with a Salvadorean Touch” there were hardly any identifiable differences to the untrained eye, which created an unnecessary distraction during my ordering process.

First came the Guanaquita Platter, a sampler of a pork and cheese pupusa, a beef and vegetables pastelito, a beef enchilada, and chicken tamal.

The tamal was textureless and bland; a comparison to regular mashed potatoes could be made, but there was no flavour or fragrance. The orange pastelito was similar to a beef patty; the outer shell was crunchy and crisp while the insides were nice and hot when served. The beef enchilada had a weird odor when consumed, while the grey and purplish discolored meat paste was beyond unappetizing; and I only needed a small bite to fully taste the off-putting, putridness of unfresh meat. The pork and cheese pupusa was interesting because it had meat bits implanted within the tortilla, but was very oily and lacked both form and texture.

A plate of stale chips came next in the form of the beef chili nachos. The scarcity of the beef hardly justified the labeling, while the dry and dullness of the unfresh vegetables emphasized the pervasive mushiness throughout the meal.

The carne and pollo (beef and chicken) tacos came next. The faded green of the lettuce accentuated the underwhelming discoloration of the unappetizing meat toppings. Upon consumption, depression came quickly to both my mind and my stomach with the contemplation of, “how bad could the food in El Salvador be if it’s this bad here?”