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"Authentic" restaurant feels cheap and fake
174 King Street
Two stars (out of five)
By Molly Duignan
If the sign and menu for a restaurant both allude to "Authentic
Mexican Cuisine," the least one might expect is an authentic Mexican
But, as Zapata's Restaurant proves, you can't believe everything you
Zapata's opened Feb. 1 and has managed to draw the curious attention of
many. New to King Street, however, the restaurant can't live up to the
precedent set by its close neighbours.
With an interior resembling a cross between a cafeteria and a hotel lobby,
Zapata's suffers from a serious lack of ambiance. Sporadic music fills the
air, but only between uncomfortable silences. The wide open space proves
too vast and the staff too small to adequately accommodate a diner's
The menu is huge, boasting an assortment of dishes including "authentic"
chicken, beef or fish items and not-so-authentic sounding sandwiches.
Clearly, Zapata's needs to decide what kind of restaurant they want to be
– if they're going for the authenticity, the menu and ambiance do not
The unofficial slogan at Zapata's must be "ask waiter about availability."
Once you ask about many of the items, the uninformed wait staff will most
likely tell you it is not available, although it seems surprising that a
restaurant only open for two weeks could already be out of stock.
The descriptions of the dishes are very literal – when the "Entremeses"
(Appetizers) menu describes quesadillas ($5) as a flour tortilla with
mozzarella cheese surrounded by salad, expect nothing more than Kraft
Singles melted between tortillas and served over shredded lettuce.
Even worse, a meal at Zapata's could take a while – one can expect at
least a half hour between appetizers and entrées. From the "Ensaladas"
section, diners can choose from only two authentic-sounding salads. The
Ensalada de Nopales ($6.50) is a cactus salad that tastes more like a
green bean salad.
Among the variety of Zapata's specialty tacos, the beef floutas are
described as entrées, but are definitely not a meal on their own. The
chicken enchiladas de mole ($7.50) are better, but the overbearing mole
gravy is smothering.
Other options include a Chiles Poblanos de Queso o Carne ($10.50), a dish
of green pepper and egg dipped and filled with cheese or ground beef
topped with house tomato sauce.
The huge variety of Mexican sandwiches stands in stark contrast to the
otherwise semi-Mexican menu. A smaller, more specific menu could solve the
problem of the staff's inability to supply what is offered.
The menu makes the food appear very reasonably priced, but, given the
small portions and bland tastes, the quality does not reflect the prices.
The $6.95 Margarita is the most overpriced item on the menu, as the small
drink is alcholically-overbearing, but under-flavoured overall – certainly
not worth seven bucks.
The desserts, such as the caramel flan, may sound good, but will probably
be – like many other dishes – unavailable. Don't opt for the cold, crunchy
rice pudding or the apple pie, which is only worth $3.99 for the ice cream
Despite its flaws, what Zapata's lacks in delivering, they make up for in
Owner and Chef Lilia Morales is friendly, approachable and determined to
satisfy everyone. Small touches, like the salsa dishes and mural art,
improve the atmosphere of Zapata's, but are simply not enough to salvage
the dining experience.