Casa Oaxaca: Getting the bugs out | Art & Appetite

By James Spangler | May 26, 2017
Photo by: James Spangler James Spangler loves eating bugs – in this case, chapulines, or grasshoppers.

It seems extremely improbable to Americans who have not studied much Spanish, but “Oaxaca” is pronounced "wah-hah-kah." I only mention it because a new restaurant by the name of Casa Oaxaca just opened at Five Corners in Edmonds, previously home to the short-lived Soup’s On Café.

If you look at a map of Mexico, you'll see that Oaxaca is deep in the southwest region of the country. Among other things, Oaxaca is known for its mole sauces, chocolate and for chapulines.

Chapulines are … well, there's no delicate way to say this – they’re bugs. More precisely, they are grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium. They’ve been a protein source in Central America and southern Mexico for as long as records have been kept.

When I heard that chapulines were on the menu at Casa Oaxaca, I made plans to visit. You see, many years earlier, I balked at a bug-eating opportunity. I vowed not to let this happen again.

I was in Louisville, Kentucky, visiting family during a plague of 17-year cicadas. According to an article I had read in Smithsonian, native people enjoyed cicadas, and it was claimed that they tasted a little like crawfish.

Well, I happen to like crawfish, so I decided I was going to eat one. That was before I set eyes on them – they are enormous and arguably the ugliest bug I have ever seen. I couldn't figure out how to eat them. What part could possibly be edible? Just the thought turned my stomach.

By contrast, chapulines are cute little bugs. In this case, already prepared, attractively presented and served with a nice wedge of lime. I had no hesitation – I shoveled a bunch onto a tortilla chip and popped them in my mouth.

To me, they tasted like sunflower seeds or possibly like popcorn.

They also crunched a bit like popcorn. Surprisingly salty. I imagine this must be the advantage to selling them at sporting events – consider how beer sales must jump when fans consume something this salty. For me, the experience might be a been there, done that sort of thing.

But I wouldn't be averse to eating chapulines again.

We had dropped in to Casa Oaxaca on a Friday evening. The place was hopping, and the staff was friendly and efficient and handling the rush well.

In addition to bugs, we ordered the tostadas as an appetizer. That may have proven to be the best item we sampled that evening. Dressed with a delicious Mexican cream, it came with a chilled red mole; we found it to be very tasty.

Friends had already vouched for the chile rellenos and the carne asada, so we thought we'd check out the tamales and the fried chicken. Both were good.

The chicken was breaded and fried perfectly, but the pieces of chicken were cuts of meat I didn't recognize. They may have been wings, but it seemed to me the bird had been butchered in such a way as to maximize the number of bones you had to wade through.

Roasted in banana leaves, the tamale (singular) was pretty good. I would have been happier with two, or possibly one slightly larger. The side of frijoles negros may have been exciting and novel 20 years ago; it was slightly disappointing as the sole accompaniment to my tamale.

I noticed some meals were served on aluminum pizza pans. That seems like a bad idea. Large plates aren't that expensive, are they?

A high point was the hibiscus Agua Fresca – Casa Oaxaca plans on offering three rotating flavored waters. Our choice, hibiscus, was delicious.

Drinks, appetizers, and entrées ran us a little over $50. I consider this to be very reasonable for a sitdown dinner around here nowadays. But you can't really trust anything I say – I eat bugs.

Casa Oaxaca
Rating: 3.7 out of 5
Where: 8406 Bowdoin Way, Edmonds
Information: 425-678-8307, www.facebook.com/casaoaxacaedmondsrestaurant

 

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.