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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Taleo Mexican Grill - Irvine

3309 Michelson Drive
Irvine, CA 92715
(949) 553-9002

For coupon, visit OC Mex Food

I’ve been meaning to go down to Taleo for a while now. I’ve heard so many good things about it. I was in the mood for good Mexican food the other day so I finally decided to go and try it.

I went down to Taleo as a party of four. The restaurant was fairly empty at around 6:15 on a Tuesday evening. For some reason though, they decided to seat us at the one table that seemed to be getting all of the sunlight through the windows. The sun was shining so brightly on to our table that we all had to wear sunglasses indoors until the sun set further.

We looked over the menu and decided to order the Vegetarian Queso Fundido ($10.00) as an appetizer. They brought it out after a while with a basket of warm chips and two different kinds of salsa. One of the salsas was mild, the other was spicy. The Queso Fundido was pretty good, but unlike any queso fundido I have had before. This was more like a spinach mushroom dip made with béchamel sauce.

The waitress came back to take our order. J decided to get the Carnitas Plate ($21.00), R ordered the Enchilada Suizas ($15.00), my wife ordered the Fish Sandwich ($13.00) and I finally decided to get the Carne Asada plate ($21.00). At the last minute I also decided to order another appetizer called Tuna Tostar ($15.00).

We waited for a long time and eventually ran out of chips while eating the salsa and fundido. We wanted to ask for more chips but the waitress was nowhere to be found. After a what seemed like forever the waitress finally walked by our table. I flagged her down and requested more chips. “Right away,” she said. She lied. It took a really long time before she came back with any chips. I’m guessing 10-15 minutes. Right after she finally brought the chips, the Tuna Tostar arrived.

The Tuna Tostar was described as diced sushi-grade tuna tossed in cilantro wasabi soy dressing, topped with micro-greens and served on ciabatta toast or romaine hearts spread with avocado-wasabi. For some reason I was expecting smaller pieces of toast. On the plate were four very long pieces of toast topped with the ingredients above. It was pretty good, but absolutely Asian. Since Taleo is a Mexican restaurant, I was hoping they would do something with this dish to “Mexicanize” it, but they didn’t.

After another long wait, our food arrived. My carne asada plate was not what I expected. I was thinking that I was going to get some thin flat steaks as is usual for carne asada. Instead I got two thick steaks. I cut into one of the steaks and took a bite. It was pretty good. It tasted more like just a steak though, and less like marinated carne asada. The beans that were served with my meal tasted more like BBQ pork and beans than Mexican style beans. This would have been good if I was at a BBQ. Throw in some corn on the cob and you've got a party.

J’s carnitas was a huge chunk or glistening pork on her plate. She enjoyed her carnitas very much and said that they had a slight sweetness to them. I usually don’t like sweetness in my carnitas, but they looked so good, I wanted to try them anyway. I stole a bite from her plate. They were sweet, but they were also very good. They were very tender and very flavorful. I would probably order this next time if I return.

R liked his Enchiladas ok but didn’t seem to think they were anything special. He didn't have much to say about them.

My wife was amazed at the amount of coleslaw that came on her fish sandwich. She scraped most of it off and took a bite. She said that the fish in her sandwich was so overly fishy tasting that it made her eyes water. It was almost if the fish was rotten. She couldn’t bring herself to take another bite. When the waitress came by after our meal, she saw that my wife had only taken one small bite and asked if she wanted a box. My wife just replied with a “no” and the waitress took the dish away. I think a good waitress would have asked if there was something wrong with the meal. We probably should have said something, but we didn't.

As most of you know, I really love Tres Leches cake. I saw it on the dessert menu and couldn’t resist ordering it ($8.00). It arrived at our table beautifully presented. The four of us took a bite. I liked the cake, because I pretty much like any Tres Leches cake, but it was nowhere near as good as the Tres Leches at Gabbi’s. No one else seemed to be very impressed with it either. J said that the Tres Leches cake from Fresh & Easy was better.

Overall, the food at Taleo was pretty good, but not as good as I expected. The service also left something to be desired. Anytime we would ask for something, i.e. more chips, more water etc., it would take forever for them to bring it. I might go to Taleo again if someone was offering to take me, or if I had a really good coupon, but I think I’ll stick to Gabbi’s for upscale Mexican food.

Taleo Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon


Diamond Dog said...

$21 for Carnitas???!!!

Go to Carnitas Los Reyes on Tutin/Palmyra in Orange and get some of the best carnitas in the area for $1.25 a taco (big tacos) or about 5 bucks for a plate of it!

Gabby;'s just can't be beat for this style of Mexican food Taleo is trying to emulate.

There is that over used appetizer again. Ahi Tartare (or some variation of it). Do you know that there is no regulated grade called "sushi grade"? You can leave fish out in the sun for a day and call it sushi grade and there is no regulation to prevent you from doing that..

And bad service ruins a meal. You paid good money for that food and for those prices you deserved much better service.

I am going to pass on this place. You have now saved me from yet another restaurant in OC

Griffin said...

Thanks for the comments Diamond Dog! I'll have to check out Carnitas Los Reyes

joy said...

Wow, I've never had service anywhere near that bad at Taleo's -- what rotten luck that it was your first time. For future reference (because I hope you'll give it another shot) they are USUALLY very good about seating you anywhere you like (I know exactly where you mean, where the sun shines in your eyes -- we've gotten up and moved our drinks and everything over two tables from that spot, no problems). And usually much better with the rest of the service issues, too.

I agree that some of those dishes don't sound very Mexican, like the ahi tartare. I only ever order the Mexican food, since that's what they're better at. I keep trying the fish but have finally decided to give up: they just don't do fish well. Although in my experience it's usually just overcooked, not actually bad. (Why didn't she send it back?!?)

Sounds like you were just there on a bad night. I hope you go back some time and order something other than fish. I agree with Diamond Dog that Gabbi's is good, and I'd say for most dishes that Gabbi's is usually better, at the same or lower price point. But Taleo is much closer to me, and like I said, I always get good service. Plus I really, really love the queso fundido with the chorizo, mmmm.

Griffin said...

Joy-Thanks for your comments. Maybe I will give them another shot. I'll just make sure to avoid the fish :-)

ChristianZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChristianZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChristianZ said...

I've had lots of good things at Taleo. A few hiccups here and there but mostly really good stuff. Even Gustavo from the OC Weekly didn't like them at first but then eventually gave them another try and loved them and wrote an article about how he changed his mind and he's been back more since then.

BTW, I've never had the ahi tuna tartare thing there. No aversion to it. Just somehow have never tried it. That and the fish sandwich may be the two items I've never tried from there . . . not that I'm keeping very good track . . .

(Sorry for the prior post deletions. Had to make a couple edits and additions.)

Griffin said...

Christian-I'm sure I'll give them another try eventually. It's weird. You and I seem to go to a lot of the same restaurants, but we never seem to order the same things...

Anonymous said...

WOW! What a different experience. My husband and I have been to Taleo's several times a week (no joke) since they opened a few years ago. To be fair, we are not fish lovers, so have never tried those dishes. But, the filet (Houston's-type quality) is superb, with a slightly Mexican sauce on the plate...fabulous. The baby back ribs are the best we've ever had anywhere. They fall off the bone. I love their carnitas and enchiladas, and they have the best hamburger around (for lunch). Their guacomole is delicious and we love their queso fundido (both with and without the chorizo)...perhaps they mistakenly gave you the wrong dish. Their chips are fresh, crispy and served warm. I ask for "Nancy" salsa which they make specially for me (with roasted tomatillo and pico de gallo). We also love their fajitas and their black beans (rather than the charros). PLEASE give it another try. My husband and I think so much of it, we'd be willing to meet you there and pick up the tab (sans beverages). For dessert, I hear they have the best flan ever (I'm not a flan fan, so cannot comment myself.). The chocolate dessert, which I've had elsewhere, is served warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. It is a chocolate lovers dream.
Nancy from Fountain Valley

Anonymous said...

Hey Griffin,

First some constructive (my intent and my opinion [grin]) comments regarding the style you use in critiquing. I would sure appreciate hearing more of your evaluations expressed in an objective manner. While you are of course expressing your opinions through out the entire document comments like “too sweet” and “not what I expected” may have significance to you but have no relationship to my personal frame of reference.
Now if your intent on adding all of this superfluous subjective commentary is to pad the length of your article it is certainly meeting your objective. On the other hand, if your intent is to stick closer to the reason of your article in the first place you may wish to dedicate the space to as accurate as possible objective descriptions of the food and service. Leave the subjective stuff to the potential diner. I also suspect people will view your posts with much more credibility.
Now to address your impressions of your experience at Taleo’s. First let me establish my credentials to address this matter: Since they first opened over a year or so ago I visit TALEO’S regularly. As a result, since I eat most of my meals out, I am without a doubt, one of the most qualified expert witnesses you will ever encounter. Not only that but add in over 50 years of solid professional and successful business experience, currently focused on creating and developing a whole new cutting edge technical service, steeped in customer service…I KNOW what constitutes EXCELLENCE in customer service. If any doubt remains in your mind as to my level of competence and you think you are up to the task, I invite you to test me in this arena! [Laughing Out Loud]
There are just too many inconsistencies in your descriptions of your dining experience at Taleo’s based on my extensive personal dining experience at Taleo’s for both of us to have been in the same place. You are sure you were at the real Taleo’s? [LOL]
OK so maybe you were in the right place and had a bad experience. Chaos theory, the science that really controls all aspects of the universe, us included, by shear numbers would dictate that I should have had more of the bad experiences than you, being that you were a one-time visitor.
Cutting to the chase I am betting on Taleo’s consistently excellent performance in this contest. I am also willing to back up my position by offering to meet you and a guest, at Taleo’s for round 2 (also where I can personally audit your experience and later attest to your degree of integrity [LOL]) and pick up the tab if for any reason you are not in a position to literally eat your (previously published, heavily subjectively weighted, account of your Taleo dinning experience) words. Of course if you were wrong, then being a fair minded person I am confident you would want to do the right thing and you pick up the tab (and print a full accounting of this experience).
Arnie Rosner

Griffin said...

Nancy-Thanks for the offer. It's not necessary though. I'm sure I'll give Taleo another shot in the future.

Arnie-Thank you for your comments. This blog is a place for me to write about my experiences eating out at restaurants in Orange County. I do not write things simply to pad my articles. I simply write whatever I think about the restaurant. I am not a professional food writer, nor have I ever claimed to be. I believe that everyone has the right to have their own opinions, and this blog showcases mine. There are plenty of articles all over the web with different opinions about Taleo and other restaurants. That's the beauty of the internet, we can write what WE think of a certain subject. I'm sure some people value my opinion, and some people don't. That's just the way it works.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this place just isn't that special especially after reading some good reviews on it. IMHO there are better Mexican resturants that can be found that are much cheaper.

Perhaps the location and decor is the reason some people love it but it certainly not the food.

ChristianZ said...

"I agree that this place just isn't that special especially after reading some good reviews on it."

So reading good reviews of it made you think it wasn't special? That's odd.

"Perhaps the location and decor is the reason some people love it but it certainly not the food."

Actually, I personally like the food there. Not saying every single item is out of this world or that it is the only Mexican place I eat at, but, yes, I do like the food. Some people like the food even more than I do. If I say I like it though don't twist that to mean that I'm saying it's the only place you should eat at or that you can't also get Mexican food from cheaper places. My heart (and stomach) is big enough for all kinds of Mexican food.

And I hope the people that have been offering to pay for Griffin to go back have used my Taleo coupon before.