My feet started dancing to an unknown Latin beat, drifting along on the spicy scent of chili powder. My family and I were aimlessly strolling around the Hyman Mall, enjoying Aspen's incredible beauty when something captured my attention. I followed the medley, leading me towards a small alley. I looked up, and saw a bright and colored sign reading Zocalito. As I turned the corner, I found various chairs and tables set for two, leading down the alley. I cruised forward, eventually finding the entryway. My family, also entranced, followed me down the short staircase, the music and smells getting more intense. We emerged from the stairway into a brilliant orange dining room, with a small bar to our right. The bartender quickly swung out from behind the bar with a smile. "How many?, He asked. "A table for three please", we replied. He led us down a small hallway, towards the booths. At first, something caught my eye, even more pronounced than the "so tacky it's cool" orange and the artistic photographs lining the walls, but it was obstructed by the waiter, so I thought little of it. The waiter stepped out of the way, pointing towards the booth in the back, revealing the astonishing objects behind him. Two authentic, fire spitting, wood carved Alebrijes stared back at me. Alebrijes are brightly colored, highly intricate, hand carved, dragon like figures found mainly in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. These amazing artifacts helped create the exotic and fun atmosphere we felt throughout the entire restaurant.
The entrees were a bit on the pricy side, but there were many authentic and highly exotic meals. However, there was a great variety of Tapas which were more reasonably priced than the entrees. Even though Tapas are often treated as appetizers, it is always fun to order many of them to create a meal full of variety. I chose the Shrimp Sopes for $11, and the Pasillo de Oaxaca Relleno, for $14. I really enjoyed the Sopes. They consisted of refried beans, tomato, onion, cheese, and of course shrimp, garnished with green peppers and pickled Bermuda onions, dusted with a small dose of chili powder. They had a sort of shrimp essence, which was nice because there wasn’t any overwhelming "shrimpiness" to them. Even my sister enjoyed them, and she doesn't fancy seafood too much. The Sopes made me feel good and warm inside, with just a mild spiciness. All I can say about the Pasillo Relleno is this; "Wow". The chef personally brought the dish out to us. The Relleno is a stuffed chili pepper, covered in egg and deep fried. It was surrounded by pockets of fried black beans and the traditional Mole sauce. Before we cut into it, my father gave me some wisdom. "You can tell food is authentic, when the flavor is so special and uncommon, that you can say you have never tasted it before". I have never tasted this before. The traditional mustiness of the Mole, along with the skin of the chili sent my taste buds into a whirl. The spicy chili taste, then a strange unexpected smokiness, and then back to the Mole over and over again, each time in a different order with a unique texture.
The chef returned and asked how the meal was. With tears in my eyes, I gave him the seal of approval; a simple thumbs up. We finished the Relleno and the rest of our tapas. Asking for the check, we looked around the Latin Bistro one more time. Zocalito offered a unique experience, right in our own backyard. It was funky, exciting, and a great place to escape from the same old-same old of school and work. It is a great choice for a massive variety of unbelievably authentic food, with enough spice to rival Thai. I had a fantastic, spicy, and memorable experience at Zocalito, and I hope to return as soon as possible.
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