I unfurled the tamale from its corn husk jacket, nudging my fork, just barely, into the tender, steamed masa dough. Inside, slow-cooked shredded chicken in a verde sauce.
I pushed my fork into a second tamale, but this time the reward was chicken in mole sauce, and a billow of steam.
Two more tamales, with red sauce, and shredded, slow cooked chicken and pork inside. Another came filled with queso and long slices of red bell peppers and jalapenos.
Then the sweet corn. Almost sweet enough to be called dessert.
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And the triangle-shaped Michoacan tamale — a corunda — wrapped in the green leaf of the corn plant. I wanted to dunk the whole thing into a bowl of pozole.
Three visits and seven tamales later, I’m happy to report that Los Tamales Mexican restaurant officially offers a full-fledged tamale menu.
The restaurant’s grand opening was Jan. 30 in a strip mall that’s home to the El Jalapeno grocery store, in a neighborhood already brimming with terrific Mexican restaurants and one Salvadoran-Mexican restaurant.
The first few weeks after Los Tamales opened, the restaurant offered just chicken or pork tamales in red sauce and the rajas (cheese and jalapeno).
But on my recent visit last week, the count was up to seven. Look for the printout of tamale choices at the front counter.
Here’s a tip: Next door, from the same owners, is a business focused on tortillas — Tortilleria Azteca.
It’s this newspaper’s policy to withhold criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month of business, which is why I’m focusing on descriptions here.
Don’t think of Los Tamales as simply a tamales destination. It’s a Mexican taqueria in the same style as neighbors Taqueria El Grande or Taqueria El Rinconsito, both quick-service restaurants with broad menus.
A self-serve salsa bar held avocado verde salsa, habanero, roasted tomato, ranchero and two kinds of curtido condiments. There’s also a serve-yourself bin of warm tortilla chips.
Order at the counter, then seat yourself in the cheerful, tidy dining room with cushy red-and-blue booths along the windows and several more tables seating two to eight.
The menu lists the greatest hits of taqueria eats. There are tacos (99 cents-$2.25 each); burritos ($6.99-$11.99); pozole and menudo ($8.99-$9.99); arroz con pollo ($9.99); carne asada ($11.99); chilaquiles ($8.99) and, of course, the tamales ($1.99 each or $18-$21 a dozen).
Here’s a tip: Next door, from the same owners, is a business focused on tortillas —Tortilleria Azteca. While you can’t buy the tortillas directly there (they’re made fresh only on weekends), they’re packaged and for sale at the neighboring El Jalapeno grocery store.
Los Tamales Mexican Restaurant
Where: 1018 72nd St. E., Tacoma; 253-301-0849; facebook.com/Lostamalestacoma.
Also in the neighborhood: Tacos Guaymas, Taqueria El Rinconsito, Las Delicias Mexican/Salvadoran restaurant and Taqueria El Grande.