Refuel: Pablo Picante * *
131 Baggot Street (Junction with Pembroke Street) Dublin 2
Pablo Picante isn't so much a restaurant as a taqueria with a few bar stools, a cooler full of Arizona lemonade and Ireland's greatest collection of leather wrestling masks. It's named after a fictional Mexican wrestler.
Pablo Picante is 29 years old, he was born in Ensenada on Cinco de Mayo -- the Mexican equivalent of Paddy's Day. He likes to read Cormac McCarthy novels, and listen to Jane's Addiction. He has his own Facebook page and more than a thousand people have signed up to be his friend. When they post on his wall, Pablo personally responds, calling them things like chica and compadre. His favourite saying is "Burritos para todos".
Intrigued? Amigo, you should be.
It's a brilliant concept, and it came as no surprise that the owner previously worked as a creative in advertising. He developed the branding with the help of illustrator Chris Judge, who drew Pablo up to look like a 50s comic book hero. Thus when you buy a Pablo Picante burrito, you buy a value-added story. This is just as well, because if you peel back the layers of cleverness, what you're left with is a fast-food outlet that has just five items on the menu. Six, if you count the desultory salad.
In order of appearance, they are: Beefy Barbacoa, Victorio Verde, "Sonny" San Diego, El Classico, y Senor "Slim" Delgado. All of the above are burritos, I blanked the salad. Now I don't want to become known as La Gorda, so I recruited four tasters from the ranks of my Today FM co-workers: the panel comprised one presenter, one producer, an editor and an engineer. They ate under condition of anonymity.
I kept the most expensive burrito -- El Classico (€6.95) for myself. It contained sirloin steak, which was overcooked and therefore wasted. I should have anticipated this and palmed El Classico off on one of the others. Nevertheless, I felt that the jumble of beans, rice, cilantro, chili and sour cream was fresh and filling. I'd asked for it to be served hot, and there was definitely a fiery jolt of jalapeno. I wondered, however, whether the tortilla was either too large or too doughy, because I did experience occasional mouthfuls that tasted of nothing but starch.
The Presenter and "Sonny" San Diego got off on the wrong foot. The tortilla was too bulky, he said, so he just picked at the innards. But what is a burrito without a tortilla? he grumbled. Mere contents. He asked me if I thought chefs ever taste their own food before putting it on sale. Ay Dios mio.
The Producer was even more damning. It didn't help that she ordered the Senor "Slim" Delgado chicken burrito but was given a beef burrito instead. "Aside from the fatty meat," she said, "there was guacamole, sour cream, refried beans, onion, tomato, coriander ... and so much chili that my lips felt like they were being singed with hot irons." Well Jeez Louise, and I thought I was hard to please.
The Engineer -- a kind and gentle soul -- also had the Beefy Barbacoa burrito. Apologising in advance for being negative, he assured me he was grateful for any food, albeit it "flavourless meat" and (yet again) "a doughy texture".
Only The Editor was happy with her burrito -- El Victorio Verde -- the vegetarian option, packed with feta, lime rice, beans, cilantro, sour cream, jalapenos, tomato and guacamole. It was wholesome, and refreshing with flavours singing in harmony, she said. I stuck my fork in and had to agree.
Now, in looking for a balanced conclusion, it occurs to me that Pablo and I have four Facebook friends in common. Had I chosen these four individuals to help me with this review, the verdict could have been entirely different. But the jury's in and who am I to put words (as well as burritos) in their mouths? Tis a pity really, considering the crush I'd developed on this Senor Picante. So macho, yet sensitive and intelligent. God knows, men with muscles AND a sense of humour are hard to find. Too bad he's not for real.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-8pm.
TYPICAL DISH: Burrito classico
RECOMMENDED: Victorio Verde
THE DAMAGE:€30.30 for five burritos
ON THE STEREO: BocaFloja
AT THE TABLE: Mostly young and mostly handsome men
WHAT TO WEAR: Vans
DO SAY: Más sabor
DON’T SAY: Más calor