Monday, November 17, 2008

The Phoenix (11/12/08 by J'Dubs)

For this week's Quesorita meeting we continued our trip westward on Lemmon Ave to the lengendary El Fenix Restaurant. According to their sign (and confirmed by Wikipedia) Miguel Martinez and his family have been serving-up Tex-Mex cuisine since 1918. From their famous Enchilada Dinners to their Mexican Lunch Specials, these guys practically invented Tex-Mex cuisine. After nearly 90 years in the business, have the Martinez Family perfected this cuisine? This was the question our group of Quesorita'ers went seeking to answer...

Now for me, I am a long-time listener, first time caller to Quesorita. The Quesorita Senoritas knowingly cut me out by having these outings on the only night of the week I am unavailable. Arriving a bit late to my premier, I was happy to see such a big group but confused as to why I've been the only one left out. There were already empty bowls of queso which I thought to be a good sign for the Martinez Family. I was promptly greeted by our server who promptly returned with a house Margarita on the Rocks. So far so good...

I found my margarita to my liking. It was served-up in the classic margarita goblet, garnished with a good lining of salt and a generous lime wedge. The taste was slightly sweeter than it was tart but overall well-balanced. They were also generous (but not overally so) with the tequila. Meaning you could actually taste it. I personally gave it a 3/4. However, a show of hands landed it at 2/4 for the group.

On to the next event: The Chips and Salsa. I think the chips are often overlooked in the literature but can really affect the meal. To put it out there, there is no such thing as a bad chip, save for soggy or stale (but one might still even debate that). These were the classic old-school chips: yellow corn and thick. They were fresh (as in, not stale) but not hot-out-of- the- fryer. They were slightly dense for my liking and also a tad under-salted. I like a lighter, thinner chip. I will admit the thickness does come in handy for the queso, so sometimes it can be a mixed bag. The salsa also got high marks. It fulfilled my basic criteria. That is: cooked rather than fresh, not chunky, and not too much onion. Chips 2/4. Salsa 3/4.

Now the main event: The Queso. Now I have to interrupt quickly to explain something. I take my queso really seriously, as do most of you, I hope. But I have never really met a queso that I didn't like. That's not to say I can't discriminate between bad queso and great queso. It's just a statement of my love for this gooey, melted concoction that is rumored to sometime actually contain cheese. Now this statement got me into a heated discussion with my buddy Shelby, who believes something different. He believes that taste buds discriminate depending on their location. That is to say, ball park-like queso would taste bad at a Tex-Mex Restaraunt but good at a baseball game. While I agree that one should expect more from a Tex-Mex establishment (and it would get low ratings) I would still gladly dip my chip over and over into this inferior queso past the point my belly said 'no more.'

At first glance, this queso looked like any other of the queso that have been chatted about by you bloggers out there. It was yellow but not neon yellow, giving the impression that there might actually be some real cheese in there! I dipped my chip with anticipation. The consistency was on the thinner side...somewhere between warm whole milk and Hershey's chocolate sauce. It was blatantly void of the fixings you typically find in a good queso. You would have been hard-pressed to find an onion, a pepper or even a tomato. This of course doomed it to be void of any of the things these items impart, namely taste or spice. This was, at best, fancy ballpark cheese. Personally I gave it a 1/4 but a consensus of 1.75/4. As predicted, the low marks didn't stop me from polishing off a bowl all on my own...

Quesorita is typically just a happy hour event. I only know this through word of mouth since I'm not a regular attendee. This week dinner was included in the event. This was motivated by El Fenix's Enchilada Wednesdays. Legend has it that the Brumley family used to travel-in all the way from Desoto to eat here every Wednesday night when young, impressionable Laura Elizabeth was a child. The Enchilada Special is something of a swindle if you ask me. I mean it's a good deal ($4.99) but it only pertains to the Cheese Enchiladas, not the "Whole Enchilada" menu. So I opted out of the special for something meatier and thus will comment only on my meal. I went with the Chicken Spinach Enchiladas with the Sour Cream Sauce (at the waiter's rec). I think I can say that the Martinez Family does Enchiladas right and that the 90 year's of experience has payed off. The sauce was creamy and slightly tangy. The enchilada below was soft but not soggy and filled with moist white meat chicken and fresh spinach. The meal was served with re-fried beans and Spanish rice. Both very standard but very tasty. Most of us rated the meal higher than the Queso or Ritas. I gave it a 3.5/4. The group 3/4.

Suzy Q and L-Boogie & The Enchilada Special (with Chile con Carne Sauce)

For most of us, the service was average and acceptable. But this is a group that sticks together. We are also from the South ('ish) and thus we commence the meal together. So when one person doesn't get their food (in this case Courtney), the rest of us have to wait for politeness' sake. I don't know what it was, but this waiter had a thing for forgetting (or more likely, ignoring) Courtney's order. He totally forgot her Enchilada Special and Margarita. Then he disappeared for 20 minutes while we all sat their waiting to start. Unfortunately, I had to be the rude one and I started eating to avoid a cold meal. Thus Service = 1/4.

We opted out of dessert but I was happy to see the classic Sopepilla on the menu. In addition it had been a long time since I had seen Chiclets and those Mexican Pecan Pralines at the Check-out counter. Very warm childhood memories...

Just a comment on the atmosphere and crowd. It looks like neither has changed much since it's opening in 1918...Next week, on to a younger crowd and a hopefully tastier queso at Mattito's! Of course, I'm not likely to be there but I do wish you all the best of Queso and Rita, Senoritas!

Kelly Diggin'in Tex-Mex Style

1 comment:

S said...

They call it enchilada special, but only the cheese enchiladas get the $4.99 price. They're such freakin' banditos. -- Balls