Last night, wanted to use our Whole Foods/ Border Grill $20-discount card. Border Grill used to be a regular place we might go for a festive Mex flavored meal with happy drinks, I have not been in a while...
My first impression on entering was that it is getting funky, it needs a steam cleaning or new carpeting or something, not funky in a groovy south of the border cantina way.
We were seated and right away served a half filled basket of cold chips and 3 salsas. Salsa should sing the praises of the kitchen, this was an overly limey green salsa, an OK mildly hot barely smokey roasted salsa and one that tasted only of tomato. These salsas were singing Wayne Newton.
We ordered the soup special, corn and shrimp chowder ( $8- ), chile relleno plate ($16-), and the special " duck leg carnitas" ($27).
We were asked if we wanted more chips, and though I did not, my husband did and said yes, but they never came.
The soup had no discernable shrimp flavor, and very little corn flavor, mostly cream, with lots of cubed potatoes. It was tasty in that mmm creamy way, but no great revelation...
When our entrees came, mine was not the duck , but a plate of pork carnitas. I don't eat pork, ever, so I was not happy to find myself with a mouthful. But I took that bite as an opportunity to discover what all the fuss is about pork carnitas, here on Chowhound carnitas lovers describe it so lovingly: crispy fried parts, melting tender parts etc etc, but this really just seemed like very lean chunks of pork that could have come off a porkchop, with orange juice flavor. I wager that the carnitas at Border Grill is the white bread Vegas of carnitas.
The rellenos plate was ok, but the amount of food could have fit on a small salad plate. My duck, when it came, was ok, but I am not sure what about the prep designated it carnitas, it was just 2 braised duck legs, flaccid skinned on a bed of very oily green rice, with a garnish of heirloom carrot chunks. None of the food was properly hot, though the plates were.
After sharing a negro modelo and a slice of key lime cheesecake, of which my husband jokingly asked can I detect any lime? or was the lime missing , like the shrimp in the soup, the duck in the carnitas, and the carnitas missing from the duck.....
Our waiter , who was sweet enough but not very competent, gave us a discount coupon "for our next visit"to make up for the entree mistake. I don't know, but I would have felt much better if they would have just comped the cheese cake. If "good will" is for the benefit of the customer, why should we have to endure another meal of less than stellar food and service?
As it was, the meal was about $70- minus the $20- discount card it came to $48- ( we tipped 15% on the $70- amount ) so it was a $60- dinner. But the food, and service was far less than say Monte Alban, which would have been 1/2 the price, and cooked with a lot more love.
Border Grill is for fun mixed drinks, and fits in with the scene in Santa Monica for that, but the cuisine is nothing to get a hot about , any more.