Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Taco Bamba

322spotlightWhat happens when a world-class chef focuses his culinary talents on Mexican street food? The answer is something special in the case of Victor Albisu and his new takeaway taco joint Taco Bamba.

Albisu, a NoVa native and Le Cordon Bleu School graduate, is chef and owner of Del Campo, a high-end South American grill that recently opened in D.C.’s Chinatown. But his new Taco Bamba is decidedly on the less elegant end of the dining spectrum. It’s back in the corner of a small shopping plaza off of Pimmit Drive, though made quite visible by its vivid red sign. Albisu opened the spot just steps away from the Latin market his mother owns there.

Taco Bamba functions best as a carry-out eatery, but the space is lined with bar seating (including plenty of bottles of hot sauce) for those who’d like to dine in. Chalkboards fixed to the wall list the dining options, detailing a Mexican eats menu sure to set any meat-lover’s mouth watering.

Diners can choose from about a dozen different meats as the base of a taco ($3 apiece or three for $8).

The tacos are made with layers of thin corn tortillas that struggle to wrap around a massive amount of filling. And that filling is mostly meat, maybe accented by some cilantro or chopped onion depending on the selection. The Carne Asada, which tops the menu, is a customer favorite. Here, grilled and seasoned chunks of tender beef with a nice fatty flavor are the focus. Beef also comes shredded with the Barbacoa and Cecina. And for those with more offal taste, there’s the Tripa, made of deep-fried chopped pieces of beef small intestine, and the Lengua, made of thin slices of beef tongue. The Birria offers shredded lamb spiced and with a bit of gamey flavor. The Chorizo serves up spicy ground sausage. The Tinga is the sole chicken option on the menu, serving the meat shredded and lightly tinted red with its mild seasoning. Pork rounds out the order, shredded in the Carnitas and Enchilada, and chopped in grilled chunks and served with pineapple slices in the Al Pastor.

The sopes ($4.50) come in the same meat varieties, but the base is thicker, a grilled and crispy, hardly-yielding tortilla that’s topped with a mountain of lettuce, a powerful dusting of salty cotija cheese, and a few slices of pickled jalapeño.

While the flavorful meats are clearly the work of a talented chef, the Tacos Nuestros selection is less subtle in showing the artist’s hand. Here you’ll find options like the Black Pearl, with crisp-shelled and buttery fried tilapia topped with coleslaw and a creamy aioli blackened with squid ink. There’s also the Taco Bamba, with strips of skirt steak and chorizo competing for attention.

With the pun “Tacnos,” Taco Bamba highlights a few non-taco selections. The Torta Bamba ($14) is a subject of carnivorous wonder, a playfully-sized behemoth that packs ham, hot dogs, chorizo, spiced pork, chicken, two types of beef, and more toppings between two slices of bread. A more reasonably sized “tacno” is the Bamba Burger ($7), with two patties and avocado on a fluffy bun that get a punch of heat from pepperjack cheese and poblanos.

Diners can stop by Taco Bamba and sample a high cuisine chef’s take on low cuisine, admiring his take on traditional tacos and marveling at what a trained cook’s creativity can do with that rather basic premise – and they can check it out for less than $10 a meal, making the idea of visiting all the more appealing.

Taco Bamba is located at 2190 Pimmit Drive, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-639-0505 or visit Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 6:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.