The spendy entrée recommended by our excellent waiter (able to answer all questions about ingredients and prep methods) was Cordero al Guajillo, rack of lamb in a suave sauce of Guajillo chilis and ground peanuts. Without our specifying doneness, it arrived a perfect rosy medium-rare — cut into three meaty rib chops in a sauce that flattered the lamb. Alongside were Peruvian purple potatoes and hunks of fried plantain. (This dish, the most expensive on the menu, probably brought us the three great salsas, too, along with a basketful of the fine house-made “chips.” Either that, or you get them automatically with entrées when it’s not Restaurant Week.) The lamb was excellent but overpriced for the amount of thrill it affords, given that most entrées here cost at least $10 less.
Overall, this second meal was a fiesta for the mouth, offering guidelines for how to eat economically at this rather upscale destination. “This would be a great date place if you don’t eat too much,” said Jim. “Start with a pair of ‘Smoking Tipplers,’ the scallop appetizer, and shrimp ceviche. Then a bowl of that corn soup, and if you’re still hungry, a taco.” “Or the duck enchiladas instead of the taco,” I said. “And you want to finish off with the airy little churros. That sensual coconut sauce is your perfect happy ending.”
* (Very Good)
815 J Street, downtown, 619-236-9420, elvitralrestaurant.com.
HOURS: Sunday–Friday 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.; weekends until midnight; Saturday and Sunday brunches 11 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
PRICES: Appetizers, soups, salads, $7–$11; sides, $4; tacos, $9–$13; entrées, $18–$35 (most low $20s).
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Ambitious menu of creative re-creations of multiregional Mexican dishes. Huge list of tequilas and cocktails. Well-edited multinational wine list, many affordable choices.
PICK HITS: “Smoking Tippler” margarita. Appetizers: Sopa de Elotes (corn soup), quesadillas, Callos de Hacho (scallops). Entrées: fish taco; Enchiladas de Pato (duck mini-enchiladas), Cochinita Pibíl (Mayan-style “pulled pork”), fettuccine with duck in mole sauce. Dessert: churros with coconut sauce.
NEED TO KNOW: Heated patio with view of Petco scoreboard and Park at the Park. Parking lot on Eighth Avenue just north of J ($3 on nongame nights). Informal but subtly festive; T’s fine (maybe not wife-beater tanks indoors). Sufficient choices for lacto-vegetarians. Easy to create a budget grazing meal, especially if sharing.