My imagination went bonkers over Memelas (3001 Bonita Road, Chula Vista). One look at the sign that said TACOS + THAI + ROCK was all it took. Visions of hypothetical molé drunken noodles and chicken satay burritos danced in my head. What is this Thai-Mex fusion going to taste like? Will it be The New Hotness, just looking for an excuse to take the culinary world by storm?
I dove headfirst into a carne asada taco smothered in red curry sauce, and likewise into one taco al pastor swimming in yellow curry. The plate of tacos looked, if not beautiful, at least compelling. Each one sat there, resplendent in Thai curry and guacamole, a rainbow of flavor. As I bit into each one, unconscious alarms sounded in my head.
“This isn’t right! they said, speaking with the authority of ancient instincts that kept my prehistoric ancestors alive by preventing them from eating the wrong things.
Memelas’ tacos tasted wrong. Not good. Not bad. Wrong. The flavors clashed. Tension in a dish is one thing, conflict is another. This was like lemonade and brownies.
It was even worse with the chicken satay burrito. This should have been the pinnacle of fusion food, a coming together of two wonderful things into something greater than the sum of its parts. Instead, it was a complicated piece of I-don’t-even-know-what. The peanut sauce and Spanish rice just wouldn’t play nicely with each other, all but obscuring the chicken. After trying to finish half of the burrito, I threw my hands up in frustration.
I can’t recall a dish that exasperated me to such an extent.
Having tried only the dishes that blended the two cuisines, it’s only fair to say that maybe Memelas does tasty Mexican food, and tasty Thai food as well. The thing is, that wouldn’t justify a trip to Bonita, just to get a plate of pad thai. The staff was certainly friendly, and the rock and roll ambiance had its charms, but the smashed together Thai-Mex didn’t work, and what a disappointment that was.