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It all happened when I had to redeem my crappy friend status……..

EL CORTEZ
TEQUILA BAR + KITCHEN
10322 83 Ave NW,
Edmonton, AB

“Ugh, I forgot to phone you back” I texted to her, feeling like a bag of shit. “No worries”, she said ” You can redeem your crappy friend status if you meet me at a new spot tonight that I’ve wanted to try for a while”, Brandy, (my cool, smart, witty friend who is a great foodie as well) bargained. “Hell ya!” I said, after taking a peek at the online menu.  By the way, I need to give a big shout out to restaurants who put their menu’s online. There’s nothing worse than the moment when you realize you hate everything on the menu, and so now you have no choice but to just get drunk because booze is all you can to order. It really cuts on down the awkwardness.

El Cortez is a new spot that’s opened in the old Sweet 69 space on Gateway Blvd Northbound. Now, to be fair, I don’t know a lot about mexican fare, but my girl Brandy does. She spent time traveling around Mexico and the girl can make a wicked taco – not to mention knowing her way around an excellent ceviche.  She would lead the evening in the food selections and I of course, would just be funny, gorgeous entertaining self.

I arrived before her, so I found a comfy seat by the window (picnic table style) and took a look around. Let me tell you, the decor in this place KICKS ASS!! I’ve not seen anything like it, and would hazard a guess that the rest of Edmonton hasn’t either. Brandy said she read somewhere that the decor could be described like an old gangster setup, rough and tough, all grafitti’d up and expectant of dude with a handlebar mustache (think Danny Trejo kinda, in “Machete”) to come in with guns a blazin’,… but then his girlfriend comes in and throws in her girly touch to the mix. (That’s the gist of what she was saying anyway.) Take a look at this awesome decor. It’s literally an exciting sight for bored eyes that are SO done with looking at the same old sleek-clean-lines-wood-steel decorating that tries too hard in that  “I’m trying to be cool” way.

There’s no trying here, El Cortez decor IS cool.

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Oh, our server was super cool too. She did a great job. She had great suggestions  – I wanted a fruity type drink, so she suggested one that was on the menu. Unfortunately, they were out of the alcohol needed to make it. (Ummmmm… On a thursday night, you’re out of booze for certain drinks on your menu??) So, I picked another drink off the menu:

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Wooooeeeeeee!!!! I took a sip, and instantly feared talking in the direction of the burning candle. Flame thrower is not a good look for any girl. Boooooozy!!! If your idea of a cocktail is pure alcohol, then you may like it.  But my inner alchie is a pansy-ass so I didn’t like the drink. Finally, I settled on a glass of white which was again, one of the servers suggestions, and it was fine.

Appetizers:

TAQUITO:  Ahi tuna wrapped in a tortilla with wasabi avocado crema, onion, pickle, tomato and watercress.

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This appetizer was DELISH!! The wrap was warm and crispy, the tuna firm and succulent. The wasabi crema could have been a bit more plentiful on the plate, but what was there added a slightly spicy creaminess that helped tone down the pickle on the crunchy onion. It all worked together wonderfully. Was it worth the 17 dollars for the appetizer?  No. However, it was pretty damn tasty.

 

CEVICHE: Albacore tuna, sweet potato, roasted corn, cilantro, chilies with tortilla chips3
Snoooore. This ceviche limped along, trying to act all ceviche like, but just couldn’t cut it. We even tried to help it by asking for extra lime and salt, but it was just no bueno. It was bland with the occasional hit of sweetness from the corn and… sweet potato. Sweet potato in a ceviche? That was a first for us but we were willing to keep an open mind, and it just didn’t cut it. It was a miss for both of us. However, I have to say, the tableware in this joint is INCREDIBLY gorgeous. Every dish was served on a great piece of pottery that gave it an authentic feel. I want to have it.
 
Now.
 
Ok, moving on……
 
Salad:
 
Watermelon Salad: Squares of watermelon with jalapeno, shallot, water cress, and torched queso with a tequila lime dressing.
 
 
 
 
 
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This salad sounded so delectable in words. I was SO excited because really, I could be a watermelon kingpin. I’d love to have a watermelon empire if I lived somewhere hot, because I simply love watermelon so much. Unfortunately, it almost whispered “sorry” to me when the server brought it our table. Again, cool ass plate, but approximately five pieces of watermelon with barely “torched” (not really even melted) cheese on top. If by saying onion, they meant radish, then that part was good and crispy, but I saw no onion on the plate. The dressing was nice, but I think they put chili oil on the plate as well? Sorry, another let down.
 
Tacos:
 
We ordered three kinds:
1.Fried cheese, jalapeno and mango slaw with bacon bits and crema

2. Beef cheek, poblano mole, queso fresca, guacamole and radish

3. Smoked pulled pork, kale kimchi, fried peppers and crema

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1. The fried cheese (top) – It was not bad. Again, nothing really bad about it, but nothing spectacular either. The mango was nice with it but it just needed something to bring it up a level or two…

2. The beef cheeks (left) – This was very rich. Beef cheeks are luxurious and unctuous to begin with and with a rich guacamole, it was rich on rich. The radish wasn’t enough to cut the richness, but again,
if you like rich on rich, you’ll love them.

3. Pulled pork (right) – Nice! Smoky flavor from the sauce in the pork and a little crunch from the fried peppers. The kale kimchi was a little lost, but this was good in general.

So overall, the food was………. lack luster. It had some really amazing stuff (the taquito) and a dish that really made it stumble (the ceviche). In between all that, were the salad and tacos that were simply average.  El Cortez can’t survive on the decor alone, and I hope that the menu works out the blandish kinks.  Brandy and  I both decided that as it now, it’s a great place to go after work for some drinks and an appetizer, but as a great dining experience… not so much. I think the items on the menu are great, but they just really need to be tweaked in terms of flavor. That being said, if they get the menu right, coupled with that kickass decor and cool ambience, they could have a super popular spot would do really, really well.

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