El Rey (new Starr resto) on Chestnut Street
I checked it out this week. Their menu is here (though the one I saw in the restaurant looked a little different):
I liked it a lot, especially for the prices, which were lower than I would have expected from a Starr place. The tacos were especially great, I tried the skirt steak tacos, which at $9 are a little more expensive than the $6-$8 you would pay at any tacqueria, but they were much, much better. The black bean enchiladas were also very good for the price ($6) and a bigger portion than I would have expected at that price at a Starr place.
I didn't care much for the ropa vieja tostadas, they were OK but not as flavorful as the tacos, and hard to eat: the tostada itself just crumbles away on the first bite, I had to eat the rest with a fork. Also, the churros were undercooked, a little doughy in the middle and pale on the outside.
Dinner for two with two drinks each and the churros was a little under $100 before tip.
I went for lunch today with a friend. We were headed to Thai Chef & Noodle, then realized we were righ across the street from El Rey.
The food was good, the service a little more eager/intense than I prefer, and the room exceptionaly noisy.
Shared queso fundito, with choriza & poblanos. It was very good, but served with too few tortillas to match the amount of amount of queso. A random server took our empy tortilla basket -- I thought he was bring more, but he never did. We finished the rest by just eating it with our forks.
I ordered an horchata to drink -- I wanted to test how their version was. I would get it again. I like it because it's light & seems to help cut the heat when the food's too spicey for me. My entree was chilaquiles with skirt steak; my friend had chicken enchilada. Both were quite good -- I would get the chilaquiles again in a heartbeat. We both had dessert (neither of us have any willpower), the churros. OK, but not worth the price nor the heaviness in my stomach. No tres leches, and no flan. When I asked, the server gave us a long dissertation on how the chef is always changing things up & it's always a surprise. WTF? They've only been open since last week.
We didn't scrimp, so it was an expensive lunch: $45. I'd be more cautious next time. I'd also like to go back for dinner when I can try their chile relleno (Chile en Nogada), which appears to be Oaxacan style.
On the plus side the prices were reasonable and the menu does include items familiar to regional Mexican menus. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about the food: the guacamole isn't as good as El Vez's even (tasted like onion powder to me), the pipian sauce I got was greasy and salty, and worst of all there are NO sides: no rice or beans that come with the dish or can be ordered separately. (I will say the salsa is good.) There's a lamentable trend toward small-plate menus when there's no good reason for one, and here it means one walks out without having a balanced meal. I love Mexican food, but probably won't be going back.
I have to agree with those not so impressed. I went the other night and tried the ceviche which was just good with a little too much sauce around it . The skirt steak tacos were good but barely any steak and too much sauce--------but clearly i am not a big one for sauce----lol, second time i've complained about sauce in a week!
Stopped by for lunch and had a great time! The facade still had that blue and white Greek diner look to it, but inside the decor was very playful, with lots of kitschy chandeliers from the kitchen of Mom's friends in the '70, without the avocado and harvest gold.
The ceviche was a highlight. The fish had a relish with lime & cilantro and other ingredients, but none of the flavors overpowered. The tapas items were also inventive - remarkably flavorful. Service was excellent. I'm going back there this weekend.
147-13 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11435
I had an early dinner there on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago.
For drinks, had the horchata (very pronounced cinnamon flavor) and the tamarind marguarita which had definite tamarind pulp in it. Both were good, not great.
Started off with the crab ceviche, which had a nice fresh flavor, balanced with the lime and cilantro. The corn and zucchini quesadillas were very nice, corn was fresh and the tortillas was nice. We split two orders of tacos.. the lamb and halibut. I liked the arabes (lamb) a lot. The meat and the fresh tortilla stood out, not over powered with the sauce. Delightful. The fish was ok. I always compare a fish taco with the san diego style .. and these came up short. Not a big fan of the crema they put on it, and there was a bit too much slaw. Finished up with the wonderful short rib enchiladas. The star of that dish was the wonderful flavor of the short rub, complimented by just enough of the rioja sauce. It was beefy, flavorful. A wonderful bite of food.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised. While it is no Distrito, it serves flavorful food, in a nice atmosphere. The hand made tortillas are a gem as are the lamb tacos and the short rib enchiladas. I would go back, but only during off hours as the space definitely has the potential to be very noisy.