Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Food in El Paso, Texas

My prior post was on food near Big Bend National Park. It was not impressive. The food in El Paso was much, much better.

Tabla is the one restaurant I made reservations for ahead of our trip, for the day of our arrival. Tabla focuses on tapas (small plates) and has plenty of vegetarian options, which we were trying to focus on. Tabla has a 4.5 rating on Yelp with 385 reviews and is the number 10 (out of 1,414) restaurant in El Paso on Trip Advisor with a 4.5 rating.  Our reservation was not necessary, but it was one of the best meals of our trip. 
It is in the historic section of El Paso.
Grilled pulpo (octopus) with an olive tapenade (see to the left). The octopus was in very small pieces, but had a nice smoky flavor and was not too chewy. 
Brussels sprouts with sweet and spicy sauce, cilantro and spiced nuts. I don't like cilantro, but did not notice it. The brussels were small, which I like, and a bit firm. Most people like them that way, but I prefer them mushy. However, I still enjoyed them. Lots of restaurants are doing brussels now and I've had quite a few that were better.  
Papas bravas (spicy potatoes) with herbs and aioli. The potato wedges were highly spiced and I preferred them without the aioli (which was strong and covered up the potato taste).  
Roasted cauliflower with cherry tomatoes, garlic butter and herbs. I have grown to love cauliflower, especially when it is well cooked like this was. One of my favorite dishes. 
Mushroom tart with ragu, sherry and cheese. The greens and tomato on top were good. It was okay, but not one of the better dishes. 
Baked goat cheese (in the bowl) with honey, sweet onion jam and grilled bread. We ordered extra bread. The sweet onion jam was too sweet and over-powering. The goat cheese did not have a strong goat taste. One of my least favorite dishes. 
Cold plate called "Simple" with avocado, cherry tomato, cucumber, Parmesan, and herbed vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was very nice. The red items I believe were the tomatoes and were crunchy. I didn't particularly like them, but the rest of it was good.  
Chickpea fries with chipotle curry ketchup and Moroccan spices. The ketchup was too overpowering and I liked them better plain. They are made out of chick pea dough which is cut into the shape of fries and then fried. 
Although I was critical of many of the dishes, I enjoyed it immensely overall. It was creative and had some nice combinations. There were other tapas we would have loved to try, such as pork belly wraps, smoked duck, roasted quail, bruschetta with smoked salmon, short rib, gnocchi with green chile and chorizo, mussels, smoked baby backs and arrachera (flank steak with chimichurri). I love small plates that allow varied food tasting opportunities.  

Kiki's Mexican Restaurant:
Kiki's gets four stars on Yelp with 353 reviews and is rated the #3 restaurant in El Paso by Trip Advisor with a rating of 4.5 and 329 reviews. Their beef machaca was featured on the Food Network as Aaron Sanchez's "Best Thing I Ever Ate."
What pulled me in was the restaurant menu on Trip Advisor (scroll down to the bottom). For machaca, it states, "Take your choice of brisket, chicken or crab, grilled with tomatoes, onions and green chilies, a little egg, then covered with our totally addictive green sauce and cheese..." For green crab enchiladas, it states, "If we ever run out of the green crab, we could have a riot on our hands...Relax, we won't run out. When you need those tender, juicy chunks of crab wrapped in corn tortillas and drowned in that dangerous green sauce of ours and cheese,...We'll have them, we promise." That description of "juicy chunks of crab...drowned in...dangerous green sauce" propelled me to this restaurant.

We got there early, about 5:00 p.m., and I'm glad we did. It got crowded. We got an order of guacamole and it was very good. We had great guacamole in several places on this trip.
I wavered between the machaca and the enchiladas and ultimately decided on the machaca because that was what was featured on the Food Channel, although I picked crab over beef. The menu noted the crab was partially snow crab and fake crab. I think it was mostly fake crab, but that's okay, because it tasted great. The machaca sauce was inundated with green chilies, I think they were probably Anaheims, and lots of cheese. There was lots of it and it was GOOD. If I lived closer, I would eat this regularly. This was my single favorite dish of the trip.

A close-up of the chilies in the sauce.
For dessert, we tried flan. It was good as far as flan goes, but I'm not a flan fan. The cheese cake with strawberries was much better. Thick, rich and sweet.

I would like to go back to Kiki's and try some other items, but I would probably just get the machaca again. It's tough to venture when you know you can order gold.  

Quesadillas Estilo Villa Ahumada #2:
After doing the El Paso Mission Trail amidst a very heavy Mexican influence, I wanted to try a Mexican meal before we went to the airport to go home. I asked Judy to Yelp Mexican restaurants nearby with 5 stars and more than a few ratings. She found one, Quesadillas Estilo Villa Ahumada #2 with ten people giving it 5 stars. It was in a strip mall in Socorro, south east of El Paso. The waitress was very friendly and helpful. 
Sam got a chile relleno burito and caldo camaron chico, soup with shrimp, and some grilled bread. He gave me a piece of bread to dip in the shrimp and it was delicious. The soup was very flavorful and the bread was great at sopping it up. He said the burrito was great too. 
I got a cheese quesadilla, quesadilla sencilla (simple), because it was its namesake. I never get quesadillas and there was nothing about this one that would get me to change my ways, but it had quite a bit of cheese in it, more so than I've seen with other quesadillas I've watched other people eat. 
I got what I was told was their best seller, the desayuno (breakfast) villa ahumada. It was chile verde (pork) with refried beans, an over-medium egg and tortilla. The refried beans and tortillas were freshly made and good, which I slathered with copious amounts of salsa. Compare these beans with the beans we had in Marathon, Texas in my last post. 
Judy got chilaquiles c/huevo which came with red chilaquiles, quite different than the green chilaquiles we got in Mexico City, not as liquid, crunchy or spicy. It also came with two eggs and refried beans. She enjoyed it. 
They had a thick green salsa with lots of heat, similar to other salsas we'd had in western Texas. The waitress told us it was all jalapenos. I ordered more after going through the bowl we had. Here is a recipe that must be similar (that also has tomatoes in it). I've never had salsa like it anywhere else. 
They had a red salsa which was spicy and much thinner, and a whitish/green salsa which was also quite thin. I preferred the red, but neither was as good as the green which I loaded up on. The food was good and fresh, but it was the salsas that made it. It was a wonderful authentic Mexican meal. 

1 comment:

  1. I was impressed by each one of these restaurants, each serving a different segment of society. Three restaurants, three good meals. El Paso gets a big Texas star from me!