Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Friday, August 8, 2014

The El Cantina: A First Impression

The El Cantina has finally opened!  Housed in an old (1940's) gas station across White Oak from Little Woodrow's.  Something of note about me - I don't just dart out the first day a restaurant opens.  IF you do, and you expect to be smitten and gobsmacked by your experience, you're new.  Very. New.  I was one of the first crew of unfortunates to open a Mexican restaurant in the small town from whence I came - it was abysmal, at best.  With the passage of time, things improved.

Same thing for The El, I've read a couple of first reports and I can honestly refute a few criticisms, as of this past Wednesday.  First, the chips and salsa were top notch.  Fresh, lightly salted chips and warm salsa - not super hot from peppers, but nicely complex.  The queso still needs a little work.  It was mostly cheese and a bit too thick (implication here - not enough tomato/green chile business).  There's a very fine consistency line with queso - it must be fluid but not runny, thick enough to cling to a chip, yet not viscous.  It's not difficult to work out and we mentioned it to the waitress.

The menu is very small - which is also very smart for a new restaurant.  Master the basics, then expand.  I would have picked a chalupa over the chimichanga on a small menu.  I am a fool for some compuestos.  I digress...oops.  All of us ordered the same thing - the perfect standard combination.  One crispy taco, one cheese enchilada, rice and refried beans.  The taco was the super star, on a freshly fried shell with hot, well spiced ground meat, cold crispy vegetables and a shred of cheese.  The rice was above average and the refries were pretty good (I just ask they not over salt, which they didn't - happy me).  The enchilada needs an little assist, from a salamander.  The plate was room temperature to cold, so the enchilada was immediately cold.  Two words every waitperson in a Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant should say, or must say.  "Hot Plate!"  The El needs to plate the enchi, salamander it real good, drop on the rice and beans and finish with the taco.  Another suggestion, the sauce on the enchilada was thick and chipotle-y (I made that up).  Suggest they keep that one and add a standard brown gravy, or a light red chile gravy (yes, like the canned enchilada sauce, just better and made in house, like much of the menu).

When you go, ask for Taylor - she's a fantastic waitress.  Get the "skinny margarita" which is really a normal, properly made margarita without the nasty sweet and sour mix crap.  Give them a try, they ditched the valet parking.  Note to The El:  If I see valet parking I will go elsewhere, you cannot sling a deceased feline in that area without hitting a good Mexican joint.  So, don't let pretense step on your sensibilities and cost you business.  I will be back for more.  It's close, it's very cool - I really want them to make it.

The El Cantina Superior

602 Studewood
Houston, TX 77007

1 comment:

  1. Post more! Seriously, I am really digging what you have written so far. I've scanning your blog right now for more things to read.