This week I review the Eldorado Grill, but before I do, I would like to clear up some confusion. I was talking to one of my roommates and he was quite confused by the name of my column: Gustation Vacation. I guess it's not a very common word, and I don't mean to make anyone open a dictionary, so for all you peons: Gustation (gus-TAY-shun) is the act of tasting. For the record, it has nothing to do with winds or intestines.
744 Williamson St.
Mon.-Thur. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m, Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
(out of 5)
Bolo ties and
I realized I had to do another review the other day, and I didn't really feel up to anything too demanding. I had already wasted many calories walking around the capitol during the Taste of Madison, avoiding drunken middle-aged men, WJJO fans and the cuisine of Carlos O'Kelly's and Papa John's. I managed to struggle past the capital over to Williamson Street in order to try what I thought might be better Tex-Mex food than whatever I'd find at the Taste of Madison.
I am happy to say I found it. The Eldorado Grill is not a city of gold, but it does achieve a certain alchemy. This is fusion food. I couldn't really tell what type of meal I was in for when I first walked into the high-ceilinged dining room. The waiters wore bolos and the hostess wore tight black pants. Fusion I say! Tequila bottles lined the upper reaches of the walls and families sat at tables and in booths that lined the walls. It was all a bit much to take in so I sat down at my table and ordered a Tecate and two fingers of Jose Cuervo to get my head right. The introductory chips and salsa were okay, but not spectacular, so I awaited the menu with some anxiousness.
The menu comes to you glued into a sort of wooden book that I suppose adds to the atmosphere, although it seemed a little theme-parkish to me. Appetizers include chili salads, enchiladas and tamales in the $6 to $10 range.
I sampled the Texas Torpedos: pickled jalepe??os filled with Monterey Jack cheese and shrimp, wrapped in bacon and grilled. I usually reserve the consumption of pickled jalepe??os to nacho time, but here the pickling actually complemented the smoky flavor of the bacon. It also took out some of the pure heat of the jalepe??o that might have overwhelmed the flavors of the shrimp. The dish was plated quite nicely with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. The guacamole was fresh, but could have used more lime.
As I looked around I saw people with all sorts of elegant-looking dishes: butterflies of tortillas, mashed potatoes with antennae and swirls, hundreds of swirls in the sauces. The entrees are all reasonably priced below $15 and cover the standard Tex-Mex fare, with the exception of the 'Thai Burrito.' Fusion I say! There are a few vegetarian entrees on the menu, so don't be afraid to bring your vegetarian girlfriend to this rodeo-and-tequila- themed restaurant. My compatriot's steak fajitas were well marinated and flavorful, much better than expected. There was a little soy sauce in the marinade, and it worked well.
The lamb shank really won me over. Braised in olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar and served on top of a mole sauce, the lamb fell right off the bone right into the subtle mole. If you have only ever had mole at Pedro's, you probably know it as an overly sweet, slightly sickening chocolate sauce that comes with enchiladas. This mole was perfectly suited to the lamb: not too spicy or chocolatey, a thick consistency, almost cinnamony. The swirl of garlic mashed potatoes was a nice compliment to the lamb and came served with fried spaghetti antennae. Don't attempt to eat the spaghetti as it is 'merely decorative,' in the words of my waitress. Do eat the blue corn fritter, which is both decorative and delicious. The beans, on the other hand, were a disappointing, watery, flavorless mess. I thought I tasted curry, but I almost didn't care.
Overall, I found Eldorado to be a good restaurant with some interesting dishes. Their fusion dishes are enticing, but Eldorado does very impressive things with Tex-Mex standards. Pass on the bar unless you've got money to burn, and beware that there's no smoking anywhere in the place. I would have gotten one of the three desserts, but I needed a Winston a little more than a cr??me br??l??e. This restaurant isn't far away, but it does get you out of the State Street area, so check it out.