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Epistemological Enchiladas


Many of us will miss Chamade, the quirky jewelry shop in La Villita that featured the work of numerous jewelry designers, both local and international. The economic downturn (plus the desire to spend more time fishing on the part of owner Alain Teissier) did it in. But the name will live on for at least a while on the menu at El Mirador, where Chamade's enchiladas de papa have been a long-time staple.

El Mirador offers a version of this wholly invented dish on its lunch menu, where it's simply called potato enchiladas. The lack of specific title means you get it for two bucks less. The lack of any discernable chile means it's not really an enchilada, either.

Should this matter? Maybe not. After all, since the name fajita refers to a specific cut of beef, many sizzling platters (think chicken) also aren't proffering the real thing. But let me tell you what I tasted, and you be the judge.

The ensalada Chapultepec that exuberantly crowns evening's Chamade version is translated directly to the lunch plate, and if you aren't expecting it (I wasn't), it's a visual whoa, baby! (And the first clue that these are not your tia Erendira's enchiladas.) Mixed greens are further mixed with canned mandarin orange segments, corn, black beans, tortilla stripsâ?¦all topped with crumbled queso fresco and drizzled with a sweet and fruity raspberry vinaigrette said to contain jalapeño. (Reading between the lines, you can tell that any jalapeño content is minimal at best.) A few banana slices and it would be Carmen Miranda on a plateâ??not necessarily a bad thing, by the way.

The tortillas enveloping a mashed potato filling are of the orange-tinted type, which can be naturally achieved through chile powder. Or not. (The chips basket sports a few aquamarine examples that are definitely not a color found in nature.) They are pleasantly soft. And so is the filling, which decidedly does not taste of the roasted garlic (okay, maybe a hint of roasted garlic) and chipotle flavors advertised as enhancing the Chamade renditionâ??also said to come with an achiote citrus sauce. (Also, you will note, not a typical enchilada component.)

Oh, the potato filling at lunch is savory enough without being especially distinctive. But I couldn't help but yearn for just a little spunkâ??a hint of classic chile sauce, even if it had to be chipotle--to counter the sweet of the salad. And to recall more firmly the notion of something chile'd. Yet I ate the whole thing and certainly didn't leave feeling bilked out of my bucksâ??all seven of them. Sadly, in the age of shrimp fajitas, the question of when an enchilada ceases to be an enchilada may no longer be relevant.

All of this because I needed to kill time while my oil was being changed at Firestone up the street. Who knows what epic, philosophic questions might have been pondered had the service requirements been more time-consuming.

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