I had the occasion to dine at El Pinto last night. I was with a number of colleagues who were in town for business (including 2 from Hawaii!) One of them had lived here before and liked El Pinto, so he organized a trip there for dinner.
I have always viewed El Pinto as kind of frilly and a tourist trap and have avoided it. I hadn't eaten there in at least 20 years, so I couldn't remember a thing about the food. On this board I recently read a recommendation to stay away.
The salsa was flavorful with a great bite (and they say it was the mild version.)The tostadas were a bit thick and tough. The margarita was OK. The mix was a little too sweet for my palate but it had plenty of booze in it.
My standard "baseline" order at a New Mexican restaurant that I haven't eaten in before is flat cheese enchiladas with green chile. So, that's what I ordered. Well...I thought the chile was absolutely delicious. The sauce had large pieces of chile that looked like they had been home roasted. The chile had wonderful flavor and there was plenty of it. It was supposed to be hot, but I'd say it was more medium hot. The tortillas were somewhat mushy and bland...it was hard to distinguish the tortilla flavor. The chile's liquid seemed to have soaked into the tortillas, which says to me that the tortillas weren't properly "fried" before the enchiladas were made. The tortillas should be briefly dipped in hot oil. This cooks them slightly and prevents them from soaking up the sauce. The cheese was mild and flavorless. The pinto beans were delicious and the rice was lousy. But the flavor of that chile. I couldn't stop eating the enchiladas even though they were not great.
I also tried the red chile that a colleague got on the side. Seemed like it was made from powder, not pods.
A bit pricey for standard New Mexican fare (you pay for the ambience)but the portions were very large. I'm considering going back to try another item. That green chile was just so flavorful. I can just imagine it in huevos rancheros.