Walt Disney World Restaurant Review – La Hacienda de San Angel
BY MIKE WARING – OCTOBER 2010
On our most recent trip to the scintillating delights of Epcot, Mary wanted to try the new Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda de San Angel, which was undergoing a soft opening. Soft, as in no reservations taken, and no official announcement that the venue was actually available to the public at large.
We sauntered over from BoardWalk to Epcot and made our way around the World Showcase until we arrived in the magical micro-land of Mexico. To be honest, I had no great hopes for the restaurant. The other long-time table service restaurant in Mexico, the San Angel Inn, has a deservedly poor reputation for mediocre food and high prices. I largely anticipated the same for La Hacienda.
Since many park-goers are not aware that the restaurant is open, or even that it exists, it turned out that we had no problem getting a table at around 6:00 pm. Once the restaurant does officially open, I imagine it will be booked solid for a couple of hours or more before Illuminations starts. The location is a spectacular place to watch the show and almost every table in the venue has an excellent view out of the large windows facing onto the lagoon.
The restaurant is attractive in that faux old-style Mexican décor that El Torito has popularized. Fortunately, I don’t dislike this type of décor, so if it’s not exactly a win, it qualifies as at least a draw. There are even a substantial number of booths available, which might tilt the overall opinion ever so slightly over to the win column. If you’re keeping score. (Which I do, but then I’m a guy and everything is a competition with us. Hard wired in the genes, it is.) Continuing on with restaurant descriptives, we note that the lower ceiling, the extensive booths, fabric covered surfaces and way the main restaurant is laid out in a L shape means that the sound level is significantly lower than many Walt Disney World locales. It actually is possible to have a conversation in La Hacienda without using speaking trumpets, or texting each other.
The menu is very limited, but I mean this in a good way. With fewer options available, the chefs can concentrate on getting the dishes they do offer, right. There are a total of six appetizers and five entrees on the menu, as well as two “family style” offerings that will serve two people — which isn’t really family style if your family consists of more than two people. For the conventional old school nuclear family, a family plate for the adult-type people and children’s meals for the children-type people might be a nice change of pace. Yes, there is, of course, a children’s menu, with beef and chicken tacos, nachos and the all-too-inevitable chicken nuggets. Or as I like to think of them – chuggets.
For those of you who are tequila enthusiasts, well, I feel sorry for you. Tequila is the devil’s brew, a horrible, horrible substance that no right-thinking person would willingly consume. For you tequilaistas, congratulations – La Hacienda has a tequila tasting menu and a variety of margaritas. Now, begone from my sight. Well, except for you, Mary. We’re married and I have to tolerate your taste for the fermented fruit of the agave. But that doesn’t apply to the rest of you. Out! Oh, and Mary claims her “classic margarita” was good. I wouldn’t know.
We ordered a shared appetizer of Chiles Toreados y Chorizitos, which is roasted sweet peppers with cantimpalitos, or cocktail chorizo sausages. And since we’re on the subject, (which maybe you weren’t, but I am and I’m writing this so you have to stick with me) why are they called cocktail sausages in the first place? I think if we’re applying truth in advertising, sausages should only be use the prefix ‘cocktail’ if they are served in a cocktail. Or at least as a garnish. Assuming that meat-based cocktails do not catch on, then alternatively we should use the term – sausagettes. Just throwing that out there, along with the chuggets.
Mary ordered the Puerco en Salsa de Mole Negro, which is roasted pork tenderloin with mole (a sauce based on unsweetened chocolate and chiles). It also came with esquites (roasted corn), sweet potato mash, beans, and assorted veggies. Although she thought the dish was okay, Mary felt that using pork tenderloin was a bit of a mismatch, and that a slow cooked pork shoulder would have been more flavorful and better suited to the depth of the flavor of the mole sauce. The sauce was also not the best Mary had ever tasted, and here I will take her word on it, as in our family she’s the expert on mole. I have an aversion to putting chocolate sauce, no matter how spicy, on my meat or meat products. The veggies were fine and nicely prepared.
I had the shrimp tacos. They were all right, though not nearly up to snuff with what you can get on the West Coast nowadays. The shrimp were battered and deep fried, which isn’t really the best preparation for this dish. Personally, I prefer the shrimp grilled. The tacos also would have been improved if they’d been served in corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. But I quibble. The tacos were fine overall.
We finished the meal with an order of churros with yet more chocolate, this time the hot milky drinking kind. Oh, and there was some caramel sauce. The churros were a bit heavy and had been in the oil a little too long, but they weren’t all that bad. Mary ate one bite and made a face, so there was a dissenting opinion, but she’s not writing this review, now is she?
Now for the bad news. The current wait staff is young, eager, and terribly inexperienced. Service was pretty much a minor disaster from start to finish. The waiters tried hard, but they really are not yet up to snuff. As an example, that appetizer I mentioned earlier? Well, we didn’t actually receive it before the entrees. We got it with the entrees. So we just decided to rename it a side dish and go with the flow. Things were pretty much like that throughout the meal. Still it was hard to get upset, since the restaurant is not officially open yet, so some teething problems can be expected. Once they officially open, though, I would expect and demand significantly more professionalism.
La Hacienda is, I think, quite a bit better than the older table service Mexican restaurant located in the pyramid. I would assume as they get closer to official opening the wait staff will gain confidence and experience and will acquit themselves better. At the present time be prepared for some hiccups. The food is decent, if not the best Mexican food we’ve ever had. So, if you’ve got a deep and abiding desire for some Mexican food, you could certainly do worse.
There is a counter-service restaurant (La Cantina de San Angel) in the same building, with more reasonable prices but a very limited menu of nachos, tacos and empanadas, and of course it’s a totally different dining experience. However, the outdoor dining area at La Cantina has that same amazing Illuminations view.