Itacate – Penfield
Having visited the gas station location in Gates a few times and after seeing some potential, we were excited to try a full sit down experience out in Penfield and see if having a full kitchen would take their food to the next level. I am pleased to say that the food lived up to my expectations with one minor seasoning quibble.
The interior is a bit disjointed while still being relatively pleasant. You do have to walk up a set up stairs from the parking area to get to the seating but that is no big deal for me. Colors are warm and welcoming and everything appears to be clean.
Started off with a mango-orange agua fresca that was everything I look for; fruity and refreshing without being overly sweet and it really hit the spot. Chips and salsa came out right away as well. The chips were made in house and the salsa roja had a bunch of flavor. Could have used some salt or a touch more acid but generally enjoyable. Our order consisted of a tamale, an enchilada, a plate of the carnitas de puerco and a dessert order of the flan.
The tamale came out smothered with salsa verde and sprinkled with queso fresco. Well seasoned masa and the interior has decent flavor with the pork. Could have stood for a bit more masa and interior sauce but a solid effort. I don’t know enchilada that well but what I was served was fine. The tortilla was tender and the filling and sauce had some decent flavor although the chicken breast was a bit dry to my taste.
The star of our dinner was the carnitas de puerco plate that I requested extra crispy. I love crispy carnitas and the kitchen did a great job putting a hard crisp on the large chunks of properly cooked pork butt and my mouth started watering right away when they got set down on the table. The plate came out with a full complement of ingredients to make your own tacos including black beans, 4 tortillas, guacamole, salsa verde, cilantro and onions. No limes this time because they ran out following a strong happy hour but typically it would be there as well.
The meat was rich, meaty, fatty and ultra crispy and when combined with the guac, cilantro, onions and salsa verde on the warmed tortillas made for a top notch taco. My only complaint was a lack of salt. After adding some, the flavors really sang and brightened things up. Black beans were tender and flavorful and I enjoyed them a lot after adding salt and a touch of the salsa verde to add some acid. All in all still my favorite carnitas I’ve had in Rochester and some of the best cooked I’ve had anywhere in the country.
Running theme through the dinner is that although the flavors overall were strong, a touch of finishing salt before the food came out could make the first impression bites that much better.
The flan lived up to the rest of the meal and was my favorite flan I’ve had out. The texture was creamy and slightly gelatinous and seasoned well with cinnamon and the thin caramel sauce was bitter and a great complement to the base. It was sweet without being cloying due to the pleasant bitterness of the burnt sugars in the sauce. Awesome stuff.
Our server was very friendly and engaged us in conversation when we asked questions and offered helpful suggestions.
All in all, I was very pleased with our meal and happy that I spent part of my Saturday with the people at Itacate. Will definitely be back to get some more down home family Mexican cooking without the “American” twinge you see at most places. Good stuff!