Oola Mexican Grill could easily become habit forming. Located directly behind Cineplaza (東南亞) theater off Tingzhou Road just around the corner from Gongguan MRT Station (公館捷運站), exit No. 1, the recently opened restaurant offers a limited but belly-busting menu of Mexican-style food that is tasty, fresh and inexpensive.
The competitive prices are perhaps unsurprising because the interior decoration resembles that of a Subway. And like the sandwich chain, Oola’s fixings are located behind a long glass counter. Customers order in three stages. First, select one of five options: burrito, fajita, burrito bowl, tacos or salad. The next step involves the fillings, of which there are also five varieties: chicken (NT$130), steak (NT$150), carnitas (NT$130), barbacoa (NT$135) and vegetarian (NT$120), each served on a bed of rice (sadly, pinto and black beans are absent here). Then you choose any or all of the available toppings: mild salsa, medium green-chili salsa, hot red-chili salsa, corn, sour cream, shredded cheese and lettuce.
We went with the barbacoa and chicken fajita, turning one into a set meal (add NT$29), which came with a side of corn chips imported from Mexico, fresh-cut salsa and bottomless drink. An order of guacamole (NT$30) rounded out the feast.
The barbacoa consisted of shredded beef in a slightly spicy chipotle sauce with hints of garlic and oregano. The lime and spice-infused long-grain rice that it came on provided a tangy backdrop to the rich braised flavors of the meat. As it was my first time visiting Oola, I got a little carried away with the toppings. So a warning to the finicky: Things can become a bit messy if you try to pack too many ingredients into your wrap.
The chicken fajitas also scored high points. Sauteed sliced green peppers and red onions with what tasted like basil rested on top of cubes of smoked chicken. As with the barbacoa, the rice soaked up the juices of the meat, and the mild flavors of the chicken and vegetables were brought to life by the spicy salsa, which I asked the server to add generous portions of.
The servers were less bounteous with the guacamole. But it is still worth ordering. The delicate flavor and smooth texture of the Hass avocado was not overpowered by the cilantro and lime.
One small quibble with Oola is the music and flat-screen televisions. Both were blaring at top volume on the afternoon I visited earlier this week — so much so that I found it difficult to hold a conversation. But this is a minor issue for a Mexican-style restaurant that stands out from the crowd.
Address: 3, Alley 1, Ln 147, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路四段136巷1弄3號)
Telephone: (02) 2363-1111
Open: Sundays to Thursdays 11:30am to 9:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30am to 10:30pm
Average meal: NT$150
Details: Chinese and English menu, credit cards not accepted
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