You can’t imagine my excitement when I found Nim Ali’s popup at Jake’s Tavern on UberEats last week. Hint: it was a LOT of excitement. Given DC’s huge number of pupuserías and pupuserías masquerading as Mexican restaurants (for the folks who don’t know what El Salvador is), it’s suprising that there aren’t more places to find Guatemalan food.
Anyway, I thought about it all week and then planned my whole day around the massive amount of carbs I was soon to ingest from Nim Ali. And did I ever splurge on carbs–two chuchitos, two shukos, and the rellenitas. Our order was ready for pickup right on time and we got home in a hurry, ready for the feast.
Well, I’m sorry to report that Nim Ali is not about to improve the cachet of Guatemalan food. It’s a real shame, too. My main complaint about the rellenitas and the chuchitos is basically the same: bland, bland, bland. The rellenitas were a little better just by virtue of plantains being naturally sweet. Other than that, the beans inside were pretty flavorless. The chuchito dough itself was super thick and gummy (overcooked?), and made up the bulk of the treat, with very little chicken filling. The filling that was there was 80% bones. I know, I know. The bone-in chicken is actually traditional inside chuchitos, but–and I will stand by this–that doesn’t mean it’s right. This is America; we can’t even put toys inside Kinder Eggs, so why would we be able to handle tiny broken chicken bones inside a doughy tamale?
I wanted to keep an open mind for the shukos. I got the chorizo for my husband, which was ground chorizo meat instead of a full sausage like in many of the hotdog-based shukos. Mine was the al pastor.
This image is a clear depiction of every shuko:
The good: Nice, crunchy-soft bread and plenty of avocado. The chorizo meat alone was pretty good but nothing terribly special.
The bad: The al pastor pork was fine but once again super underseasoned. And without noticeable pineapple, is this really even al pastor?
The ugly: Yellow mustard. There is exactly one (1) usecase for yellow mustard and this is it: if you get a hotdog at a baseball game and there is literally no other mustard available. That’s it. The only excuse for yellow mustard. It is not good and it completely overpowers everything you could possibly put it on, including chorizo and pork al pastor.
Price: $20 per person.
Bottom line: Nim Ali was like a chorus of sad trombones. If, like me, you miss the sweet plantains, soupy beans, thick tortillas, and fresh papaya of Central America, I highly recommend La Bamba. I hope someone else comes along to fill the void soon.