La cocina de Raquel

Let me start by saying two things. First, I really, really, really want whichever restaurants settles in the old Casa María space to succeed. We need more restaurants in San Leandro. That site is on walking distance from my home. It’d be great to have a restaurant there we like. Second, I don’t like Salvadorean food. I don’t dislike it altogether, but I find it boring and unexciting. So I was apprehensive last evening when we went to La Cocina de Raquel, but I was also hopeful. I thought, perhaps La Cocina could convert me. Alas, it did not.
La Cocina de Raquel hasn’t changed its decor since its andy & joe’s incarnation. That’s not a problem, as Andy and Joe had done a good job decorating the restaurant. The murals of a Mediterranean villa do not necessarily go with Salvadorean and Mexican food, but they make the place look cozier. That’s needed because the restaurant consists of one big square room with flat office-like ceilings.
La Cocina de Raquel features both Salvadorean and Mexican specialties – something not uncommon for Salvadorean restaurants. There are plenty of places in San Leandro where to get Mexican food, so we wanted to try the Salvadorean dishes. Our general impression was that the food was merely OK and somewhat overpriced.
We sat ourselves and the waitress promptly took our drink order and brought tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were pretty good, thin and not too oily. They had a subtle corn flavor and they could have used more salt. The salsa was very watery and tasted mostly of roasted chilis. Drinks available include American ($1.50) and Mexican ($2.50) sodas. They don’t have juices or milk, though the kids shared an apple soda they liked.
I started my meal with a cheese pupusa ($2). I had meant to order a cheese and chicken pupusa (also $2), but I got confused and ordered it with cheese alone. As it was, it was quite boring. It was full of stringy cheese, but the cheese didn’t have any flavor. I would not order it again, though I might try a chicken pupusa.
I also ordered the Bistec Salvadoreño ($11.50). The top sirloin steak came in a humongous plate with large portions of refried beans, rice and an iceberg lettuce salad. The steak was pretty much what I expected: thin, somewhat tough and overcooked. It was completely covered in a tomato/onion/green bell pepper sauce, which tasted homey and very Salvadorean. I’d say that this was a good bistec as far as Salvadorean food goes, but I didn’t really like it. The rice was pretty tasteless but was helped by the sauce. I found the beans to be pretty good as far as refried beans go, but Mike thought they were just OK.
Mike had the Tamal de Pollo ($6.25) and he was disappointed to find that it had both chicken skin and bones. He didn’t find it particularly tasty.
We ordered a cheese quesadilla for the kids, and while it wasn’t great, it was more flavorful than the pupusa. It was unbelievably expensive at $6.50 for two small slices. I would definitely not order it again.
There is only one choice for dessert and that’s the Empanadas, plantain envelopes filled with custard or beans ($5.50 for 2). We had the ones with custard and I thought they were OK, but Mika thought they were really yummy, she ate all of hers and wouldn’t share with her sister. Still, I thought they were very expensive for what they were.
Dinner came to about $41 after tax – a lot of money for what was a mediocre meal. We will not be rushing back BUT, I’d like to remind you once again that we are not fans of Salvadorean food. If you like Salvadorean food, you should certainly go and give them a try.
La Cocina de Raquel
1562 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA

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