Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Review: El Roy's

Fun fact: El Roy's has the same owners as Leroy's. No, really!
It was Restaurant Week last week, which naturally means something fun for date night. I chose El Roy's Tequila Bar & Kitchen in Coronado, a newly-opened Mexican place from Blue Bridge Hospitality (which practically has a monopoly on Coronado restaurants). It was offering a pretty interesting $30 3-course prix fixe menu, so I saw this as a good opportunity to try it out.

The view and the vibe are the immediate draw at El Roy's. It's located by the San Diego Bay waterfront, giving diners a fantastic view of the downtown skyline through the floor-to-ceiling glass. The guitarist played classic rock and some Mexican classics, which created a warm atmosphere despite the slow weekday evening. The psychedelic Día de los Muertos style mural on the wall gave the dining area some character.

First course! My Mexican corn pudding was excellent and one of the best parts of the meal. The cornbread-like base was topped with a heaping helping of elote. That mix of roasted corn, poblano, cotija, green onion and lime was a tart, salty complement to the sweetness of the cornbread. A great appetizer, but I'd recommend sharing because it's quite filling.

Amy's duck confit empanadas were good, though they may have been crisper if they weren't placed on a bed of salsa verde. The acidity of the salsa and pickled onion worked well to balance out that fried dough. The duck filling was meaty and satisfying but hard to pick up at times among the other flavors. She also had the Hibiscus Cooler cocktail, which was nothing unusual but nice, like a faintly floral sangria.

The entrée course was frankly a little lackluster. The sweetness of Amy's short rib tacos drowned out the other flavors for me—a shame, because crispy shallots and chile-tomato jam sound like they should have been great accompaniments. On a positive note, the actual tortillas were actually thick and slightly crisped with a definite masa flavor. The Brussels sprouts had that great crispy charred texture on the leaves. They had a pretty sweet foretaste due to the honey-based sauce (which ended up coating the plate—not ideal), followed by a light vinegar flavor. I liked them more than Amy, so I helped her out with them. I'm nothing if not a gentleman.

My pork belly tacos (yep, pork belly again—someone start a drinking game!) had their own issues. The flavors were good, including the very nutty peanut aioli and some sourness from the pickled veggies as great complements to the pork. The main problem was the pork belly itself, which came in massively thick slabs. That still could've been delicious if it were done right, but unfortunately it wasn't tender at all, and the fat wasn't properly rendered, making for an unpleasant bite. My cucumber slaw was okay, with a nice vinegar foretaste that faded a bit too quickly into something lemony and slightly bitter.

Dessert put things back on track. I got the dirty horchata cocktail, which was sweet and strong—they definitely didn't skimp on the horchata-flavored vodka. It was also pleasantly creamy from the white chocolate liqueur and coconut milk. I definitely got the cinnamon from the cinnamon–coffee simple syrup. It's not far from what I imagine a White Russian might taste like (never mind that I've never had one). Not all that much like horchata, but definitely tasty.

The highlight of the evening, though, was easily the Mexican chocolate pot de crème. Incredibly decadent, the chocolate custard was infused with just the right amount of cinnamon: not overpowering, just enough to stick around. It was topped with a layer of thick golden salty caramel—the kind of caramel with that deeper, darker sweetness. There was even a second (!) caramel dolloped onto it, a lighter one spiced with a little cayenne. All of that came with a blob of whipped cream on top. (Because... why not?) This was so good that the fact that it was too rich to finish may come back to haunt my dreams.

Having opened just a month ago, El Roy's may still be in the process finding its footing. They've clearly got some dishes down to an art, while others are just as clearly in need of some tweaks. Hopefully with the backing of the Blue Bridge Mafi—er, Hospitality Group—they can take their promising start and flourish into something truly great.

Score: 6.5 out of 10 (Good)

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