Penca claims to serve Mexico City cuisine. Having eaten numerous outstanding meals in Mexico City, I was prepared for something different than the standard, though delicious, Sonoran food served in Tucson. Hip downtown location, urban vibe. Penca has no sign out front–that seems somewhat pretentious. Perhaps it should also have been a warning.
The interior is quite attractive with exposed brick and big windows. We had a reservation and were seated promptly. We ordered drinks soon after and they showed up after some waiting. My sangria was the weirdest I have ever had–a mysterious, multi-hued mix of who-knows-what oddly served in a smallish champagne coupe. It was fairly undrinkable although I tried hard to like it.
The chips arrived with some decent salsa. That was the last item with any flavor.
I ordered fish tacos. There were two very small, thick tortillas on the plate. The fish was overwhelmed by the cabbage and had no flavor. It required several spoonfuls of the table salsa to provide any flavor. Looking online the next day, there was no sign of the chipotle crema nor pico de gallo that were mentioned in the menu. Included on the plate were rice and black beans. Both were completely bland. The rice seemed to have been scraped from the bottom of the pot, and the beans were probably canned. There was no salt on the table to improve things.
My friend ordered tres leches cake for dessert. It, too, was served very oddly, layered in a Mason jar that made it somewhat difficult to eat. At least the whipped cream on top tasted real.
There was none of the flavor and sophistication of Mexico City food here. It seems to be all about ambiance and presentation, without regard for the food itself.
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