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Restaurants & Bars 10

El Portal - Pasadena, a review - long

WIldSwede | Jan 12, 200511:15 AM

Last night friend and I decided to go out to dinner. Decided Mexican was the way to go. Were headed toward a new Mexican restaurant in the area, but decided to give El Portal a try, as neither of us had ever been - and after I mentioned all the recs for their Cochinita Pibil.
Restaurant is cozy - booths on the walls and tables in the center. Bar area as you walk in. Big fireplace was blazing in the restaurant area. Place was 80% full when we got there around 7:15.
Chips and Salsa were good - salsa had a kick to it with a lingering sweetness which some extra salt balanced out beautifully.
I ordered the house margarita, made with one of my favorite Tequilas - Montezuma (I was happy when I realized it is their house Tequila). Good. Could have been stronger. Friend got the Cadillac, but said that it was too sweet with the Grand Marnier (she had reservations before ordering it for that reason, but did it anyway). She did drink it, making the comment that it could have been stronger.
I ordered the Cochinita Pibil (THANK YOU HOUNDS!!). It was FANTASTIC!! They advertise it as "Tender pork, marinated in achiote spice & lime juice, wrapped in banana leaves, then baked." All I can say is WOW. Such flavors!! I was in HEAVEN!! Tender, juicy pork with just enough of the "juice" to seep under the rice and mop up with tortillas. I could eat it every day!
Friend ordered the Flat Spinach & Shrimp Enchilada - the shrimp that they use are baby shrimp. It came just as described - tortilla on the bottom, shrimp and spinach mixture and then tortilla on top, topped with salsa verde, cheese, avocado slices and sour cream. I would have to say that it was very well flavored (there were some herbs in the mixture), although a bit salty. She liked it, but I do not think that she would order it again. I thought it was good, but will need to taste again to get a true feeling of what it was.
The rice and black beans were good as well.
Now for the service... when the servers/bus boys were at our table, they could not be more sweet or attentive, but getting them there was the problem. Waited a while to have our food order taken, but both food and drinks were brought out quickly. Refills of water had to be asked for. Empty plates sat in front of us for about 15 minutes before being taken away, and then eveything on the table was taken off - including chips which we were still munching on. Yes, I could have said something, but I figured that the check would be coming soon. Not so; about 10 minutes later the check arrived. Definitely not overly impressed with the service, but everything else was very good.
I think that the prices are very reasonable for the quality of food. $33.01 not including tax & tip. Will I go back, definitely - and SOON!! So nice to have a great place in my own backyard!


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