Edward: Well honey, once again we have eaten well…or more accurately, to the point of stupefaction.
Hannah: I tried to eat a very reasonable amount of food. But El Patron, Y U portions so generous??
I’m a little bit food drunk.
Edward: Me too! We did know what was coming, though — you had the foresight to request takeout containers before we even started eating!
Hannah: Yes, because of Gil’s review.
Ok, let’s get into it! Last time we were in that building it was a failing restaurant. Very different energy today.
Edward: El Patron is in the site of the old Garduños restaurant that closed…when was that, last year?
Hannah: If not longer ago. El Patron has been in that space since April (according to our server.)1
What did you think of the vibe? I was prepared to not like the openness of the space because I had heard it compared to a cafeteria, but I actually really liked it. A good mix of tables and booths, and natural lighting from above in the large skylight. The bar is very separate, which is similar to Nick and Jimmy’s, and which I approve of.
Edward: I do think the old interior was more consistent with the “cantina” theme, with more rustic looking furniture, but the new tables and booths weren’t jarring…and the new chairs are more comfortable. It’s a nice open space and I think the furnishings blend in well.
Hannah: I agree. I like the bones of the building, and some of the more cartoonish theme elements, and I’m kind of glad they kept them.
Edward: Did you like Garduños? I think we were there twice.
Hannah: It was never one of my favorite New Mexican restaurants historically, so I could take it or leave it. I didn’t like it since we moved…both our experiences there were pretty bad.
Edward: I think we went there once shortly after we moved here, because it’s one of those New Mexico institutions — I remember being pretty underwhelmed. Then we went there with your family…even less whelmed.
Hannah: Well there’s more to vibe than interior. What did you think?
Edward: I bring up the old Garduños because I did like the look and feel of the place, even if the food and service were mediocre. As El Patron, I wouldn’t compare it to a cafeteria, but I think it is similar to Nick & Jimmy’s2 in that the vibe is more subdued and not really meant to call attention to itself.
Hannah: Ah, yes, that’s a good perspective.
Edward: A little less “character,” but still stylish and comfortable.
Hannah: Yes. And an efficient host, and a friendly server.
Edward: First off: complimentary chips and salsa. Oddly, not a given at restaurants around here!
Hannah: Chips = sooooper thin and crispy, and correctly salty!
Edward: We like the thin chips!
Hannah: I had a hard time not nomming up on those chips, but I knew about the aforementioned generous portions. Salsa = very fresh, a little bite to it.
Edward: It’s almost cruel to give us our favorite kind of chips, knowing that we can’t just nom the entire basket.
Hannah: And with the chips came a good example of the thoughtful service..our server started to ask if we wanted new/more chips, and then she said “I’m not even going to ask, I’m just bringing you new ones because those are all broken and crumbs…” I found that charming!
Edward: Yes, but part of me was like, “NOOOOOOOOOOO”
OK, the other thing I did, which I’m going to start doing more of, is ask her opinion about menu items.
Edward: Oh yeah, that turned out to be a great idea!
Hannah: Because guess what that did? She told me about something that was available to order but isn’t on the menu. That’s what I got, and it was delicious.
Edward: We’ll keep that dish a secret since it’s off the menu.
Hannah: Wait, what? No no.
Edward: But you said “the end.” Sorry readers! Delicious dish REDACTED!
No no honey. You asked the server if she preferred the carne adovada, or the chile rellenos.
Hannah: Right, since I’d heard good things about both.
Edward: And she said they had a dish that was not on the menu but “in the system”…CARNE ADOVADA RELLENOS!
Hannah: Yes. A full chile relleno reopened and stuffed w/some adovada. And then topped with more cheese. And chile if you want.
Hannah: My plate came with 2 and I ate 1/2 of one. It’s a very suitable dish to split, for those of that inclination.
Edward: I think it’s a little unseemly that they even give you two of those.
Hannah: Agreed. I also subbed papitas for the beans, and got some spanish rice.
Edward: But do you think that dish actually existed? What if, whenever anyone asks the server if they prefer one dish or another, the server is instructed to say that they have an off menu dish that’s a combination of the two. Maybe if you had asked if she preferred the tamales or the enchiladas, she would have let you know about an off menu dish called the Enchimales!
Hannah: Honey…enchimales…that’s genius.
Edward: I think I’ll actually demand that next time.
“I want my tamales…INSIDE AN ENCHILADA.”
“For my pleasure.”
Hannah: Quit, I’m trying to write a review!
Edward: I think we are agreed that that dish is delicious.
Hannah: OK. I got red chile on the side, and added it to my potatoes. I thought everything was tasty, the adovada was tender and flavorful, but the seasoning for all was just almost too heavy. I like red chile to be a little saltier than not, but this red chile was the right amount of salt by itself, yet the bites were too salty because of the cheese. I guess balance….next time I’m going to ask for some limes and squeeze them over some of the food and see if that balances it.
I enjoyed my dish very much and would order it again!
Edward: Let me just note that I’m not normally a huge fan of carne adovada…I think because most times I’ve tried it, the meat has been stringy and tough. So I really liked how tender the adovada was here — nice and juicy. Didn’t taste like something that was sitting in a pot all day.
Hannah: Speaking of tender meat….
Edward: The red chile BBQ ribs!
Hannah: Cooked all night!
Edward: These were a big hit with me. Rubbed with red chile and slathered with their own barbecue sauce.
First of all, when people talk about “fall off the bone” tender ribs, I get a little wary, because sometimes all that means is “we cooked the crap out of this meat until it turned into a dry, flavorless mess.” However, these were very tender but still juicy and flavorful.
Hannah: Yes, in this case it was “we cooked the crap out of this meat until all connective tissue dissolved to baste the meat with itself and make it tender and delicous.”
Hannah: But, again, for me there was a slight off-balance in the sauce. Nice heat, nice and sweet, but….that’s it. Limon, cilantro! Embrace the freshness!
Edward: You don’t care for very sweet sauce, but my favorite kind of sauce is pretty sweet with some heat, so I loved this sauce. It had a kick, and was definitely sweet, but more on the fruity side. These aren’t smoky ribs. It’s almost more like Chinese style.
Hannah: You do love hot and sweet together.
Edward: I do. But I agree that some cilantro and lime would have really made that dish.
Hannah: And for your entree? Does it bother you to order a generic-named thing?
Edward: Well, I guess “#3 Combination” doesn’t have the same musical tone as “Sole Meunière,” but it was pretty good.
Hannah: Indeed. So, what was it?
Edward: It was a tamale, a cheese enchilada (but you had your choice of cheese, beef, or chicken), and a chile relleno. For my sides I had papitas and calabacitas.
First, the calabacitas — delicious. Not at all overcooked or stewy. The squash was very tender but light and fresh-tasting.
Hannah: Yes, and had a nice herbaceous flavor. I didn’t eat enough to identify it, but I liked the bite I had!
Edward: Not at all overpowering. Well seasoned. The potatoes were pretty plain, but crispy and soaked up the red chile pretty well.
Hannah: I had the potatoes too…I think they were born to be covered with chile.
Edward: (We had all the chiles on the side.) The chile relleno wasn’t as awesome as your carne adovada relleno, but I liked it quite a bit. The white cheese in the middle was delicate and mild, and the batter was crisp.
Tamale, also good – I don’t have much to say about it but it was…you know, a good tamale.
The cheese enchilada was more surprising because it was a lot lighter in texture and flavor than I was expecting.
I guess everything just had a really fresh taste to it!
I think “fresh” should be an official taste along with “umami”
Hannah: Yes, I know you think that.
Edward: I like fresh!
I’m a little bit fresh, you’re a little bit umami.
Or actually a WHOLE LOT umami
I do want to offer this caution: for the dishes we had, this is traditional/contemporary NM food. It’s loaded with cheese. So, for people who don’t like cheese-filled everything topped with more melted cheese, this probably isn’t going to be your bag. But if you’re cool with smothered stuff, then you will eat well. El Patron seems to have a good command of this style of cooking, nice fresh ingredients (nothing tasted canned or bottled), and has some serious potential.
Edward: That actually was something of a shock when we moved here, how much NM cuisine is…well…smothery.
Hannah: I must have forgotten to tell you.
Edward: It’s just all this…stuff…on top of other…stuff. It’s all very…moist.
Edward: “Hmm, what would really make this gooey enchilada perfect…I know, a FRIED EGG.”
Edward: Oh, by the way, I was just glancing at Gil’s review, and his photo of the chile ribs actually does show herbs sprinkled on top. Ours did not.
Edward: So, weirdly, your preferred way of plating those ribs is pretty much the way I guess they at least were doing at one time, or should be doing but forgot this time!
Hannah: Well, I would eat them again, for sure.
Edward: You should be their executive chef dude.
Oh, and sopapillas.
Edward: I liked how I was already like “Oh my God” looking at how much food I had to eat, and then the server came by and said, “So…would you like your sopaipillas now or after your meal?”
Hannah: Are you going to mention how they pranked you?
Edward: Oh man…
So I go to pour a little — A LITTLE — honey on my plate to see if it was real honey or just the honey-like syrup you get at many NM joints, and SPLOOOOOSH the lid comes off and I’ve got a lake of honey on my plate!
Hannah: Haw haw haw!
Edward: Anyway — yes, it’s real honey, and the server probably thought I was insane.
Hannah: At the end your hands we like Winnie-the-Pooh paws!
Edward: I came to a sticky end.
Did you see what I did there.
Edward: Have you not heard of the expression “coming to a sticky end?”
Edward: It means you die an unpleasant death!
Edward: I did feel like I was going to die at the end of this meal, but it wasn’t unpleasant in any way.
Hannah: But I’m still not sure what you “did there.” Since you didn’t die.
Hannah: Do you feel like you have eaten well?
Edward: Very much so.