Carlos Harrington, chef of the three-month-old Tex-Mex Eldorado, is New York born but was raised in SpainBarcelona to be exact.
Using French techniques, hes taken ethnic Texas cuisinesLatino, Creole, Cajun and Cowboyand fused them with Mexican. Its new concept Tex-Mex.
For spices, he takes pods and seeds, toasts them to remove the flavorful oils, lets them dry and pulverizes them. His seasoning is mild, relaxednothing crazy. (But if you want to blast off just say so and hell use the hottest of hot chiles, habañeros, in your serving.)
Eldorado is a white table cloth restaurant with a lovely tequila lounge and bar up front. The dark wicker lounges under the tented ceiling add elegance. The dining area gets a special award from me for the just right lighting. Romantic but readable. And at 9 p.m. the lights around the perimeter are discretely lowered a notch. The room is a study in neutrals with mellow orange tableware and votive lights on each table. Huge candles glow at strategic locations with dining on two levels. Relaxed elegance describes the look best.
We three wanted to experience the new concept in Tex-Mex. The salsa accompanying the basket of colorful tortilla chips was livened with kernels of corn. Very good. And at the next table they requested a refill.
We began our research with para comenzar (appetizers): Ceviche cozumelño, the citrus-cured fresh seafood which is more Mex than Tex, but a nice addition to the list of appetizers. At Eldorado its served heaped on a plate rather than in a footed glass. Three tortilla chips garnished it and were such a great foil that he kept raiding the basket.
Calamares fritos came with a Tex-Mex twist. There was a dusting of cornmeal on the calamari and it was fried with red peppers, cilantro and green olives. (Olivestheres, where the Barcelona influence comes to the fore.) The dip was roasted tomato chile sauce. Our serving was gigantic. A table of four wisely ordered one to share. There were strips of green peppers, and yet to me not green peppers. We debated. Our waiter called them roasted green pepper. I called them cactus. He inquired. Cactus they were. (The chef later filled me in on the philosophy. Once the customers become familiar with the item it will be called by its true identitycactus.)
My pan-fried Peakytoe crabcakes, firmly packed, had kernels of corn, chipolte sauce and more peppers. Our platos principales (entrees) were an interesting array. Budin de la Casa is a tortilla lasagna with shredded chicken, mozzarella, queso blanco and poblano sauce. What a great ideatortilla instead of pasta for lasagna. The serving was small but since we had the mammoth serving of calamari, it worked. Stuffed chiles poblanos was my entree. The roasted poblanos had cactus, onions, and raisins in a light tomato sauce. A casserole of red beans topped with cheese was on the plate along with a serving of Mexican rice. I loved the stuffed poblanos.
The pork chop special was a giant chop, very thick and very lean. It was nicely served with a chili paste rub, guacamole and a pile of roasted cactus strips.
The background music is classical. Later in the evening its European. We listened while we contemplated postres (desserts). Eldorado cheese cake is a creamy New York style version with chocolate salsa scented with espresso. I actually applauded when it arrived. It was set on its derrière, resembling a triangular Empire State Building someone worked hard coming up with that presentation. Chocolate salsa sounds exciting but it tastes like chocolate sauce to me.
I fell for the chocolate shortcake special. Now what could that be--a meringue-like drop cookie topped with whipped cream and raspberries and big loganberries. The drop cookie shortcake base was very good.
My companion had arroz con leche (rum raisin rice pudding) with roasted ground cinnamon. Soaking raisins in rum is a tasty way to go. Cafe Mexicano with Kahlua topped with whipped cream is another dessert suggestion.
As you exit, note the two cactus plants by the doorway. They are very much a part of dining at Eldorado. Roasted cactus is great no matter what it's called. Dont miss out. Experience cactus and the new concept Tex-Mex.
The Bottom Line
New concept Tex-Mex. Texas ethnic fused with Mex using French techniques. Mildly spiced. Handsome, candlelit room fronted by Tequila Lounge and Bar. Appealingly lighted.
Chimichangas (crispy flour tortillas filled with pulled chicken, red beans, queso blanco and sweet peppers)...$6
Camarones a la Plancha (jumbo grilled shrimp with pinto beans and garlic in tequila broth)...$7
Guacamole en Molcajete (fresh Haas avocado with tomatoes, red onions, jalapeños and cilantro blended in a lava stone)...$7/$13
Tampiqueña (dry rubbed 16 oz. ribeye steak with garlic fries and roasted pepper salad)...$20
Salmon Casa Moneo (char-grilled salmon with black beans, salsa and rice in smoked chipolte sauce)...$17
Alambare à la Mexicano (skewered cuts of filet mignon, chorizo, onion, tomato and chile serranos with Mexican rice and beans)...$18
Sea Bass Veracruzana (oven roasted sea bass served in garlic and oregano broth with olives, jalapeños and lemon confit)...$18
Paella del Eldorado (seafood paella with shrimp, calamari, scallops, clams and mussels in saffron scented rice and lobster broth)...$20
Cantina Flan (vanilla & caramel custard slowly cooked in their natural caramelized au jus)...$5
Brownie Stampede (warm homemade brownie topped with vanilla ice cream)...$5
Cuisine: New concept Tex-Mex
Setting: Elegant Texan
Service: Young, accommodating
Hours: D 7 days
Location: SW corner of Francis Lewis
Credit cards: All major
Children: Kids burger, PB&J
Off-premise catering: Not yet
Private parties: To 150
Noise level: Fri. & Sat: Comfortable
Handicap access: Yes
©2002 Community News Group
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