La Hacienda de San Angel: Bastante Delicioso

by Roan Poulter, contributing writer

In recent memory, I cannot think of a restaurant opening with more anticipation than La Hacienda de San Angel in 2010. Given its prime choice of real estate, lakefront on the Epcot World Showcase Lagoon, it might have been a hit serving recycled cardboard and week old churros. The initial reviews I read were mixed at best, so long it languished in my list of restaurants awaiting review.

Even the waiting area has a great view. Photo by Roan Poulter

Given my penchant for spontaneous restaurant selection, we approached the desk on a Sunday in mid-January and were seated within a minute or two. Due to the Festival of the Arts crowds, I saw this as lucky, but also a possible sign that the food might not be attracting the crowds it once did.

The layout gives most tables good views of the water. Photo by Roan Poulter

To be fair to La Hacienda de San Angel, I hold Mexican cuisine to a very high standard. I worked throughout Mexico for almost two years and think back on some of the meals I enjoyed there with misty-eyed romance.

The lights are particularly beautiful. Photo by Roan Poulter

We had hardly taken our seats to enjoy the views of the water, as well as the interior decorations, when our waiter presented himself to take our drink order and bring some chips and salsa. I found the green tomatillo salsa too acidic, but the red salsa had a nice full-roasted chile and tomato bite with enough picante to leave a lingering memory.

Ample chips and salsa might be the best part of Americanized Mexican cuisine. Photo by Roan Poulter

Overall, we liked La Hacienda de San Angel. To expect it to be fine dining is perhaps an overreach from its intended purpose. The pricing was reasonable and the portions were plentiful, so while I wouldn't say it's a top choice at Epcot, it is certainly worthy of consideration, especially if you could get a table during Illuminations near a window.

What we ordered:

La Hacienda (Serves two): Mixed grill offering New York strip, half a chicken al pastor, chorizos and vegetables, served with beans and fresh salsas. Now that's a mouthful in the menu description, allow me break it down.

Here the server presents our meal, or at least the main part. Photo by Roan Poulter

  • New York Strip: A tender steak cooked to order and cut into strips. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the beef but let down by the lack of spice. It could be the chef was fearful of tourists taste buds, but there really should have been an option to up the ante on flavor.

The New York strip was tender if underwhelming. Photo by Roan Poulter

  • Chicken al Pastor: A tender and juicy chicken breast achiote marinated and served with pineapple relish. It was a little too sweet for my taste, but did serve as a nice counterbalance to the rice and beans.

The pineapple glaze gave the chicken a very sweet finish. Photo by Roan Poulter

  • Chorizos: Small Mexican sausages, not entirely different than small pepperonis. They were delicious, though besides eating them individually, I couldn't find a great way to incorporate into the larger meal.

Delicious little devil sausages, watch it, they can sneak up on you. Photo by Roan Poulter

  • The Rest: A generous helping of corn with a healthy portion of spiced mayo (maybe the best part of the meal), rice, and black beans. They brought us four tortillas to start, but before I could even think to complain, they brought us a dozen more.

Black beans bring an earthy taste that grounds those individual elements into a cohesive team. Photo by Roan Poulter

The best part of this meal is that the ingredients are there for some delicious dinner. Individually, some of the items come up short, but, when combined, can set layers of texture, flavor, and aroma that are truly exceptional. I highly recommend this combination as it gives nods to sweet, spicy, savory and starchy.

Our ratings are as follows:

  • Dad (42): 4.2 of 5 – I created some Frankenstein tacos out of the piles of ingredients, but in the end I was very satisfied and there was plenty of food for three of us in the one dish.
  • Mom (42): 4.4 of 5 – The views of the lagoon were magnificent. Love all the colors of the lights.
  • Daughter (19): 4.7 of 5 – All this wonderful food and not a stitch of gluten in sight.
  • Son (17): 4.0 of 5 – Not present.