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Ta Carbon Mexican Asadero

Top quality Mexican dishes in the middle of a strip mall

Ta Carbon Pollo Asado, a delight for all carnivores. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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ANNOUNCER: Ta Carbon Mexican Asadero boasts authentic Mexican cuisine with a meat-driven, steakhouse-inspired menu. If you mention steak or Mexican dishes to Dutch or Jackie, they are sure to arrive with their appetites.

JACKIE: The ambiance is intimate! I've heard quite a buzz surrounding Ta Carbon and would have never guessed such big flavor was coming from the petite pocket of a busy strip mall. Though cozy, they've managed to provide a delightful ambiance with wall-hanging airplants, vases with single-stemmed colorful blossoms and bottles. On our visit the place was packed.

DUTCH: We visited on a packed Saturday night as well, and as I watched dish after dish arrive at neighboring tables, I knew why. This is not your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant; there are no complimentary chips and salsa here, or cheesy burros and sombreros as decoration; just a serious Mexican steakhouse.

JACKIE: The Tacos Pancho Villa piqued my interest. Your choice of steak or chicken and pico de gallo delivered in the unique vehicle of cactus instead of tortilla. I feel like I've definitely had cactus in the past but couldn't recall the experience. The meats were tasty with a smoky tenderness often lacking at your typical Mexican restaurant. The cactus was a hard one for me to place. Earth, a whisper of sour, and a soft but firm membrane-like texture. I'm not sure I found a new favorite but the taco as a whole was delectable and satisfying.

DUTCH: One look at the Pina Al Pastor was enough for me. I was in. Half of a pineapple is cored and roasted over an open flame and then filled with your choice of steak, pork or shrimp, depending on which version you order. It's then topped with fresh grated cheese and served with crispy tortillas, a selection of sauces and pinto beans. I went with the asada version of seasoned, tender strips of steak. I plowed through the steak (I'm not ashamed), and then dug into the meat of the roasted pineapple. The sweet pineapple was a good finish after I tried each and every one of the included sauces, each one of them was hotter than the next, just like I like it.

JACKIE: We also tried the Pollo Asado. A generous portion of perfectly grilled chicken is accompanied by grilled pineapple, jalapeño, Mexican grill onion, refried beans and salsa with a side of flour or corn tortillas. Le sigh. The meats here all boast that tender, flame-licked smokiness that will delight all carnivores.

DUTCH: I wasn't quite brave enough on this visit, but I really wanted to order the Ta Carbonada for $50. There is no way to describe this dish other than shelves of meat! Seriously, the dish is served on essentially four shelves that include fresh tortillas, salsa, Mexican corn, cactus, peppers and three kinds of meat -- Carne Asada, chicken and short ribs. I had not arrived prepared for such a feast, but I will next time.

JACKIE: The Ta Carbonada is on my immediate "to devour" list.

TA CARBON MEXICAN ASADERO, noon-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday, 5013 S. 56th St., Tacoma 

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