Habanero is the latest addition to Hyderabad’s burgeoning landscape of international cuisine restaurants. The Hyderabad outlet is the fifth for this Tex-Mex chain, which started off in Whitefield, Bangalore in 2011. I attended the launch party and got to soak in a fair selection of what Habanero has to offer. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, along with a private dining area. There’s a dedicated section for live performances, and of course, the bar counter. The atmosphere through the night was lively and fun, with live performance by percussionist Viviana Gonzales and guitarist John Fernandes.
I started off with Jalapeno Poppers and Macho Nachos. The former was slightly disappointing as the jalapenos failed to provide the expected burst of flavours. The nachos, however, were excellent. The regular set of dips include spicy chilly, papaya, and cucumber. The chilly dip was bit of a misnomer since it barely had any heat. One of the signature dishes of Habanero, and an essential part of Mexican cuisine – Guacamole, is unfortunately not yet available. We were informed that the restaurant is still working on sourcing avocados, and Holy Guacamole will soon be available in Hyderabad. For now, the dip that really grabbed my attention was the Queso, which nailed both the texture and taste. However, consistency might be a problem as other reported the queso in a latter serving to be dreadful. We found a couple of other dishes to taste different on different servings.
Next up was the Combo Platter with Bread Chicken Tenders, Loaded Potato Skins, Mini-Chimichanga, Onion Rings, and Chicken Wings. The potato skins were a bit disappointing, while the onion rings and chicken tenders were pretty good. However, the real star was the Chicken Wings The tangy ranch sauce on the wings was absolutely amazing, and prompted me to order for another serving of the wings. Tostada – a crunchy tortilla topped with beans, cheese, and veggies was another dish that managed to hit all the right notes. The Prawn Diablo failed by impress me, but the mild flavoured Pork Green Chili Stew was a nice palate cleanser after all of the tangy goodness.
I didn’t get to try too much in the main course. The fajitas that I had ordered never arrived, in spite of a couple of reminders, so I moved onto the desserts. I’m willing to overlook this on account of that being the first day of service with a houseful crowd. Hopefully, the servers will get their act together on regular days. I did grab couple of bites of Beans and Grilled Vegetable Taco, and Egg Plant and Black bean Stack. Now, I’m not a fan of egg plant, so unsurprisingly I didn’t like the dish. I am however, a fan of tacos, and the filling had all the right sauces. I’m looking forward to trying the same with some tenderloin and pork stuffings.
In the desserts, I wanted to try the famous Molten Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chilli, but that wasn’t available. Another well received specialty – Caramel Cheesecake, was also sold out for the day. So we settled for some Snickers Chimichanga and Churros con Chocolate. The churros were done really well, but the ridiculously high amounts of sugar ruined the dish. I was apprehensive about the combo of molten Snickers inside a Chimichanga, but it ended up working quite well.
From the bar I tried a couple of Margaritas and a Sundowner. All of them were done pretty well, with the tangy and spicy tamarind margarita deserving a special mention.
While I’d rate my experience at La Cantina higher than the one at Habanero, it’s worth nothing that Habanero is priced a lot more reasonably. It has quite a few great dishes, but also a few that don’t really work. Consistency and service are also areas that can be improved. My first outing at Habanero definitely managed to grasp my attention, and I’ll go back again to try more Mexican delights.
Update (21/03): I went back to Habanero yesterday with a couple of friends to sample more stuff from their menu.
We ordered Toastada, Wings, and Nachos in starters. The Toastada was excellent, and the Nachos were mostly good. However, there was one burnt nachos that shouldn’t have gone on the plate. The big disappointment were the wings. They tasted nothing like what I had last time. The wings were dry and had very little sauce.
In the main course, we ordered Fish Veracruz, Chipotle Marinated Chicken, and Chimichanga with Braised Pork. The Chimichanga was good, but the stuffing could have had a bit more flavour. Probably adding a bit more sauce (guacamole would be my suggestion) would help. The chicken dish was excellent, but I would like to have a different salad and probably a bit more heat. The star dish of the night was the fish, which was grilled to perfection.
Availability of dishes seems to be a concern, as signature items like Holy Guacamole, Chilly Choco Lava Cake, and Cheesecake were all unavailable. In desserts we were forced to order Churros and Chimichanga once again. The churros were not as sweet as last time, and were more enjoyable.
The food was mostly good, but can definitely improve. However, the big disappointment was the service. It’s been a week since launch, and the waiters are still clueless. You’d see them running around, but always away from your table! We had to struggle to get their attention whenever we needed something. And we did need to call them quite a few times, as we had to explicitly ask for everything from menu to water and dips. Bad service always ruins the mood, but it’s absolutely inexcusable if you have a service charge on the bill.