Thursday, December 18, 2008
Mini-Review: Tucson Tamale Company
The strip mall at 2545 E. Broadway is a cursed spot for restaurants. Ever since my favorite Chinese-Vietnamese place, Hoa Mai, closed there three years ago, I've seen one restaurant after another move into the area and then fail within six months. Tucson Tamale Company opened last month, in the spot next to the former Hoa Mai (now Sabor, a Mexican seafood place, which is apparently closed as well). Based on some positive press it had received on a local radio show, I decided to check it out.
Inside, the shop is spartan, like a cafeteria. Each table has a special husk bucket for easy husk disposal. There's a dry erase board listing the daily specials. The staff is extremely friendly and enthusiastic; the owner gave up a job in the financial services industry to start this business, and it's clear that he loves what he's doing. I chose the combo meal: two tamales of my choice plus a side for $6.75. I chose a pork tamale with green chile, a shredded beef tamale, a side of spicy black beans, and the hottest salsa available. One of the chefs asked if I wanted to try the OMG Arizona, their hottest tamale, and I acquiesced. Both tamales were perfectly steamed, with a light, sweet masa that yielded gently to my fork. The pork was delicious, but the OMG was the real standout. Filled with chopped habaneros, it was sweet and significantly hot, but not inedibly so. Habaneros have a sweetness that is often overlooked by most chefs, but this tamale really nailed that sweet/hot balance. And the black beans were the perfect side: moist, spicy, with just a bit of sweetness.
Overall, I was very impressed with Tucson Tamale Company, and I hope it lasts longer than its predecessors. I still miss Hoa Mai, but TTC mitigates the loss just a little bit.