Gourmet Mexican Spread at Q Mex
Q Mex is undoubtedly one of Beijing’s new dining hot spots.
Only open for a few months, many foodie friends are already regular customers of Q Mex and it’s all the rave, popping up everywhere in the English magazines. (see below for links to other websites for more reviews)
And I am proud to say that I had the privilege of being among the very first tasters, one of many eager and very curious Mexican food enthusiasts who attended BJ FOoDiEs’ June Charity Dinner for their monthly featured charity organization TEACH FOR CHINA (TFC), an organization that recruits, selects, trains, and supports outstanding US and Chinese graduates to work side-by-side to deliver an excellent education in high poverty, rural Chinese communities.
Over 150 BJ FOoDiEs Attend Private Tasting at Q Mex for their June Charity Dinner
This charity dinner also happened to be a private tasting of Q Mex before it even opened to the public at the end of June 2012. Over 150 foodies packed out every seat Q Mex had generously offered for a modern Mexican feast featuring a mix of tacos, tostadas, “QMexcamole”, ceviche, and chili en nogada. As good as the Mexican feast was, I knew it would be unfair to write up a proper review of the venue before I gave it a few weeks to officially start serving customers and iron out any kinks in its soft opening period.
I gave them over a month after they officially opened, figuring that the Q Mex Team had by then sufficient time to settle in with their bar, kitchen and waitstaff, hopefully getting into the rhythm of things and their Executive Chef Karla Castillo Ryes should have also relieved herself of any remaining jet-lag in her system (she was flown in just a day or two before the private tasting for BJ FOoDiEs).
Hearing mixed reviews from both their biggest new advocates and some more particular, difficult-to-please food critics, I came back to Q Mex ready to form my own opinion with my camera in hand and my hungry foodie entourage by my side. We were a party of 6 but we brought an appetite suitable for an average group of 8-10.
We came at 7:30PM on a Friday night and were surprised to find ourselves among the first tables to arrive in the restaurant. I had expected to walk into a ruckus crowd, but it was actually very quiet. To get the party started, we ordered a round of tequila shots as we eagerly made our way through their menu, strategically picking out items we hadn’t previously tried before in the prior BJ FOoDiEs tasting.
LumDimSum Snapshots of Dishes by Q Mex:
As a Mexican meal ought to begin…Tequila Shots!
Quality Guacamole Comes at a Price (RMB 30 small/RMB 40 large) *Large is pictured
The guacamole was fantastic, but RMB 40 per serving (the “large” portion can hardly be considered large at all) was a steep price to swallow considering we ordered about 4 bowls that came out disappointingly small. I suppose the cost of avocados is high in Beijing, but RMB 40 is still quite expensive.
Empanadas de Carnitas (6 pieces for RMB 50) - Pulled Pork with Sweet Chili Dip
A great choice for appetizers, these empanadas come bite-sized filled either with either chorizo and potato or pulled pork with sweet chili dip. We went for the pulled pork and found them to be quite dry and bland. The pulled pork was not as tender or flavorful as I had hoped and if I didn’t actually hear the order being made, I wouldn’t have known what I was eating.
Tijuana Caesar Salad (RMB 45)
A fantastic twist on a classic Caesar Salad, this one really exceeded our expectations. Originally, I was opposed to the idea of ordering a Caesar Salad in a Mexican restaurant but it was really a fantastic salad, full of flavor and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who plans to eat at Q Mex. A standard mix of romaine lettuce leaves, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, black pepper, and croutons, this salad is also served with slices of avocado and thin strips of tortilla chips.
The menu says this is “a tribute to Cardini’s original”. (*The Caesar salad’s creation is generally attributed to restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States – Wikipedia link here).
Enchiladas Verdes (RMB 85) – Folded Corn Tortilla filled with Chicken and Topped with Poblano Mole, finished with Queso fresco, Sour Cream and Onion Slices
Another dish that would have forever remained a mystery if I didn’t read the menu. It’s a big mix of ingredients and sauces, it’s got a spicy kick with creamy texture that melts in your mouth. The flavors are, however, not distinct and it’s a medley of consistencies, but each bite goes down well and we all agreed it was a good (but also pricey) ordering choice.
Quesadillas Del Norte (RMB 48) - Flour tortilla filled with paprika chicken, yellow pepper, red pepper, mushrooms, red onion, sides of jalapenos and salsa Mexicana.
As you can see from the lifted flap, this quesadilla is filled with loads of goodness. It was spicy with all the jalapenos and peppers and the sour cream and Salsa Mexicana sauces helped relieve the dryness.
As a bonus, they can also custom create any other basic quesadilla combo you crave. With a 3-year-old at our table, we also asked for a plain chicken and cheese quesadilla, which was super tasty as well.
Taco Bistec con Queso (RMB 28)
Sauteed Beef Skirt tossed with Manchego cheese and wrapped in Corn Tortilla
Both tacos came as a surprise as we weren’t expecting individual servings. I had naively assumed that each order would come with two or three tacos. Considering the size and quality of these tacos, even RMB 25-28 each is quite pricey especially when the upcoming Taco Bar opening soon will be selling combos of three tacos at the same size as these Q Mex tacos for about RMB 35. Not only is that a much better value, the tacos will beat out any of the three tacos on Q Mex’s menu, but Q Mex also offers a bigger menu and a more central location in South Sanlitun below Kro’s Nest.
Taco Pescado (RMB 25)
Fried fish with Chipotle mayonnaise and salsa Mexicana
Bistec Fajitas (RMB 128) – Beef skirt, Jalapeno chili, Onion and Vinegar with Sweet Potato
Served sizzling in a cast-iron pan with salsa, flour tortillas, sour cream and guacamole
The fajitas were good but the sides of Jalapeno chili, sour cream and guacamole was quite meager so we had to order additional sides of each – sour cream (RMB 10) and chopped Jalapenos (RMB 8).
Mexican Rice (RMB 15)
Another pleasant surprise, this rice was so good we orders seconds. It’s a generous portion of green rice and comes with chunky grated cheese. Full of flavor, it’s good enough to have on its own but serves even better as a side to any of the other enchiladas or fajita dishes.
We had a choice of four desserts, three of which I had previously tried (Arroz con Leche, Churros and Torta Popocatepeti – a chili chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream). I had loved all three and was eager to order the Flan Caramelo, which was the only one I hadn’t had before. We had personal requests to also order the Arroz con Leche and Churros with Chocolate so we shared 3 desserts between our group of 6.
Arroz con Leche – A Sweet Rice Pudding of Rice and Milk Garnished with RaisinsFlan Caramelo – A Sweet and Creamy Tart of Custard and CaramelChurros Tradicionales – Sweet Sticks of Fried Dough Dusted with Sugary Cinnamon and Paired with Chocolate
While the churro sticks were perfect little doughnut sticks, the chocolate sauce is bitter. I wish they’d upgrade to a better chocolate that doesn’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth. I almost prefer the churros on its own rather than dip in chocolate.
The Arroz con Leche was a favorite of mine from the BJ FOoDiEs feast, but the Flan Caramelo stole the show. It was devoured almost instantaneously and stands as the best flan caramel I’ve tasted in Beijing. Perfectly creamy texture and rich in flavor, this dessert is Phenomenal.
Overall, Q Mex is a very welcome new addition in Beijing’s ever-evolving restaurant scene and Mexican food enthusiasts are beyond ecstatic to satisfy their insatiable cravings here. It’s not the best Mexican I’ve had, but it does fill a demand for more Mexican food options in the city. Many of the dishes were quite mediocre, but some were also surprisingly good. I have hope that they will continue to improve the quality of their menu dishes and make a name for itself as Beijing’s dominant Mexican restaurant, but that “Best Mexican” title is still up for grabs and there have been plenty of new Mexican restaurants popping up all over the city. I’ve been beyond impressed with what The Taco Bar has achieved in their tiny little test kitchen, and they’re one to keep your eyes out for with a set opening date on Friday, August 17.
As a newly opened restaurant, there’s bound to be a few hiccups and tweaks that need to be made, but there is no doubt in my mind that Q Mex will be very popular in its central location in South Sanlitun with its gourmet Mexican food, large tequila selection, quality cocktails and delectable desserts.
Prices are higher than some might like (expect to pay around RMB 200-250 per person), but this isn’t cheap Tex-Mex, it’s “Gourmet Mexican Cuisine” so keep that in mind, especially if you want to enjoy a few cocktails (and possibly a tequila shot or two?) on the side.
The service was a bit slow and waitstaff still need more training, but the space looks vibrant and colorful, they have a lot of potential. They are already setting a new standard for Mexican food in Beijing and they’re ready to make a splash with a long list of upcoming events from DJ parties to Mexican Cooking Classes and weekly happy hour & meal deals (see below for list of upcoming events for the month of August 2012).
Review of Q Mex: Below Kro’s Nest in South Sanlitun, 4 Gongti Beilu 工体北路4号院, Tel: 6585- 3828; Open 5pm – late Mon – Fri, 11am – late Sat & Sun
- By the same team behind Q Bar along with an Executive chef from Mexico, you can expect authentic, gourmet Mexican cuisine.
- The colors here are vibrant and bright, making for a lively atmosphere and happy vibes.
- Location is easy to find in South Sanlitun just next to Salsa Caribe, under Kro’s Next with a big, bright sign and outdoor seating when the weather is pleasant.
- Try their Caesar Salad, Steak Fajitas, side of Mexican Rice and Flan Caramelo Dessert (menu favorites).
- World class bartender Paul Matthew has teamed up with Echo for some awesome and creative cocktails and margaritas that are all mapped out in a quadrant in groupings of sweet, fruity, sour and bitter taste preferences.
- They offer one of the largest tequila collections in Asia.
- They offer plenty of weekly and monthly activities to keep you coming back for more – Happy Hour (Monday – Thursday from 5-8PM), Taco y Tequila Tuesdays (RMB 20 for tacos and select tequila shots), and DJ Parties and Mexican Cooking classes (see below for list of upcoming events).
- While Q Mex has been packed out every night I came by – for both BJ FOoDiEs Charity Dinner and also the Opening Night, it was surprisingly quiet on the Friday night we came to dine. My foodie friends were complaining that it would be too packed and hectic and were surprised to find that we were among the first table to arrive at 7:30. That being said, the restaurant started to fill out by the time we left around 9:30PM.
- Servers were totally clueless and confused whenever we asked any questions or asked what the dishes were that were being served. Luckily, their Chief Marketing Officer - Chris Ruggles was there to help out customers and was a great host to our table.
- Food is among the best Mexican available in Beijing (waaaay better than Saddle Cantina) and all those other Tex-Mex restaurants, but it comes at a price. Our table of 6 paid RMB 300 each, which was a bit pricier than I had expected. I suppose average check per person is RMB 200 not including drinks.
- It’s still newly opened so perhaps things were still being tweaked and on an upward incline of improvement. I look forward to coming back and trying out more of their menu.
Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being best)
- Food: 7
- Atmosphere: 8
- Service: 6
Overall Experience: 7
8/10: La Noche Latina with DJ Juan Cardona. Come out for a full night of Latin beats from 10pm. Take the occasional break for shots. 10pm – 2am.
8/12: Mexican Cooking Class with Chef Karla Castillo Reyes. Learn the ingredients, tastes, and techniques of Mexican cooking for some basic dishes with Executive Chef Karla Castillo Reyes. Limited space, RSVP at www.qmex.co. 3 pm – 6pm.
8/18: Tequila Flights with Paul Mathew: Intro to Tequila. Master Mixologist Paul Mathew teaches the terrain of Tequila and Mezcals through adventures in tequila tasting. 4pm - 6pm. Limited space, RSVP at www.qmex.co.
8/18: DJ Paul Harding After 10:00, DJ Paul Harding spins cool grooves for a chill summer night. 10pm – 2am.
8/25: Get Wet. In co-operation with “Thirst” a global water awareness initiative of the Young Global Leaders, Q Mex presents a night of bikinis, wet t shirts, cool drinks, live music, and water awareness . 9pm – 12 midnight.
8/26: Mexican Pub Quiz. Test your wits and knowledge of Mexican history, culture, and trivia, and enjoy drink specials as your vie for prizes. 8 – 10 pm.8/26: Food of the Gods: Chocolate and the Rise of Mayan Civilization.Join the brunch table with Mayan archaeologist Jonathan Kaplan as he discusses Chocola, an ancient city in southern Guatemala, whose chocolate trade may have provided the foundation for the emergence of the Mayan calendar, Mayan hieroglyphic writing, city-states, kingship, and other extraordinary hallmarks of one of the greatest ancient civilizations of the world. 150 RMB / person includes food, drink, lecture, and a chocolate treat. 11:30am – 2:00pm summer night. Space is limited. Register here