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Limsterfest #938-- Panchita's #3 The Last (official) Hurrah

shocker | Jun 13, 200203:42 AM

I arrived ten minutes early and was still the last to arrive, so I write and summate.

A full bottle of wine had been consumed when I sat down, for Bob and Ann had already been there an hour and a half. Apparently, the change in date and time threw Bob off, so they came at 6:30 (I think he REALLY didn’t want to be responsible for the report. That’s what I think).

The guests—Rochelle and Michael, Bob and Ann, Ruth and myself.

We bided our time for a wee bit to see if the other expected person might arrive; she didn’t, so off we went.

Rochelle conferred w/us all, and after some deliberation made a decision.

To start—one of each kind of pupusa being offered.

Chicharron (pork)
Frijoles (bean)
Camarones (shrimp)
Pollo (chicken)
Queso (cheese)
Chiles rojos (red chiles)
Pescado (fish)
Vegetarianas (umm…)

I’ve had some great pupusas in my life, and these were up there. Pupusas are the quintessential salvadorean snack food. They're sort of a cross between a tamale and a quesadilla (much like an arepa for you Colombian food aficionados out there). These pupusas were ever so slightly crunchy on the outside, oozing cheese, smacking of limed corn and each respective filling. The vegetarianas w/diced red bell pepper and the chicharron were the favorites.

Six entrees were ordered for sharing all ‘round.

1) enchiladas de carne de cangrejo—crabmeat enchiladas. These were quietly good w/the crabmeat flavor shining. Problem is, the subtlety was so, well—subtle, that the forceful flavors of the other dishes drowned this one out.

2) camarones en mole verde—shimp in green mole. Ruth put her foot down about ordering this particular shrimp dish. w/good reason. The shrimp were juicy; the herbal and vegetal notes of the clean mole complimented the sweet brininess of the shrimp perfectfully.

3) chuletas de puerco al horno con ensalada de nopales—pork chops cooked in the oven w/cactus salad. I dug this dish. The pork was moist and full of savor from the marinade/spice rub clinging to the crusty exterior. Nopales can be stringy if mishandled or picked too large; these were cooked to crisp-tender and the tang of lime offset their greenness perfectly.

4) Panchita beef Wellington w/wild mushroom demiglaze served w/roasted garlic potato. Ah yes. That infamous salvadorean/british cross-bred specialty. There was not a masa pastry crust to be had. The only allusion to the classic Wellington was in the cut of beef chosen. There wasn’t even a stuffing (is there usually a stuffing? I don’t recall. I’ve been debilitated by this meal). The meat was meltingly tender—a resounding success.

5) Pollo en mole—served on the bone, the chicken was absurdly moist. The mole was finished w/sesame seeds and the requisite mildly bitter flavor of the dark mole had none of the harshness of lesser examples. Hefty, complex and sublime.

6) carne asada con pico de gallo y plátano asado—carne asado w/pico de gallo and grilled plaintains. This was quite a different dish from the traditional thinly sliced, well-done piece of beef in Mexican restaurants. I took it as a more literal interpretation of the term ‘carne asada’ which means ‘grilled beef'. This time the beef was a choicer cut that was grilled to medium, rendering the beef more flavorful. The freshness of the pico de gallo and the sweetness of the very ripe plantains rounded out the richness of the meat.

To finish things, we shared three orders of flan which had been garnished w/ a mild caramel sauce, a strawberry sauce and served on a bed of thinly sliced strawberries. It was a fairly dense, eggy flan— not at all gelatinous and not as quivery as some we’d had. Ruth said it was the best flan she’d had (she likes ‘em eggy); the Limster said it wasn’t (he likes ‘em denser). I thought it was a great finish to a great meal.

All for $25/person (I’ll just point out that the entrees top out at $15, not counting the single exception the seafood soup for $18, w/an average about $11/entrée. These are $20 entrees easily, it’s a stupendous bargain).

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