Semi Final 1: Caliente (1) v. Mucho Gusto (12)

Becoming the first establishment to book a place in the final, Caliente handily defeated Mucho Gusto 36-29.5, in the battle of chicken rolled tacos.   Prior to the match, some Caliente supporters were recognizably nervous, noting that “Cals” is not exactly known for producing an exceptional rolled taco.  Fortunately for these fans, Mucho Gusto was unable to take advantage of the favorable menu item, and was eventually done in by their horrific value, and only average service/atmosphere.

Mucho Gusto (Del Mar/Carmel Valley)

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Overall Taste (14/25 Points)

In past matches, Mucho Gusto overwhelmed opponents by serving unbelievably delicious food.  Not this time.  The previously praised all white meat chicken was dry, and less flavorful than usual.  The rolled taco shell was slightly overdone, and so thick it was difficult to taste the chicken.  Perhaps most disappointing was Mucho Gusto’s stinginess on the guacamole, which was placed not on the rolled tacos, but on the side.  The omission of shredded cheese was unacceptable.

Service/Atmosphere (3/5 Points)

As usual, the establishment was clean, but compared to the fantastic environment at Cals, Mucho Gusto was unable to muster more than 3 points.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (4/5 Points)

Previously I mentioned the hot sauce was not as flavorful as at Cals.  Based on today’s experience, I must retract that remark.  The hot sauce was very good, containing both flavor and spice.

Presentation (3.5/5 Points)

In previous battles, Mucho Gusto received nothing less than full marks for presentation.  This time, the food was once again aesthetically pleasing, but was laid out in a bizarre and inconvenient manner.  The guacamole and sour cream were placed not on top of the rolled tacos, but on the side instead.  This necessitated the eater to scoop the accouterments up with either a plastic utensil, or the rolled taco itself.  It was difficult to get the proper proportion of ingredients on the rolled taco, and made for a highly stressful, extremely messy, eating experience.

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Freshness (5/5 Points)

Again, everything was fresh beyond belief.

Value (0/5 Points)

Again, everything was expensive beyond belief.  ($6.99 for four rolled tacos).

Caliente (Sorrento Valley)

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Overall Taste (15/25 Points)

These rolled tacos contained moister, yet still somewhat untasty meat.  Cals received an extra point for containing a better proportion of shell to meat.

Service/Atmosphere (5/5 Points)

As previously mentioned:

A trip to Cal’s feels like a vacation to a quaint Mexican village.  I have never experienced anything quite like it.  The restaurant is part of a group of separately owned restaurants that share the same building-a small house on a street corner.  Cal’s is home to beautiful patio seating with chairs and tables that combine to place you at a comfortable eating height.  The patio is surrounded by lush flora and the entire facility is very clean.

Quality of the Hot Sauce (4/5 Points)

Cals delivers a consistently high quality hot sauce that combines a smokey flavor with the proper level of spice.

Presentation (4/5 Points)

The rolled tacos looked pretty good, though not quite as great as Mucho Gusto.  Too much lettuce.  Cals though more than made up the difference by having a much more functional presentation.

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Note: I apologize for the distracting birds-eye-view photograph.  Pure carelessness on my part.

Freshness (3/5 Points)

The chicken was not great.  The lettuce and tomatoes were only okay.  Nothing rotten though.

Value (5/5 Points)

I have come to expect great value from Cals, and was not disappointed.  I paid only $3.75 for 5 rolled tacos.

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