Mex Offender

There's a brand-new Mexican restaurant in town

I also can't find any virtue in carne Milanese, advertised as a dusted 10-ounce top sirloin. "Dissed" is more like it. This version is fatty, poor-grade beef, slung with canned mushrooms, soft red pepper strips and green chile sauce, served with a from-the-bag flour tortilla.

At least the carne is better than a truly fatigued chuleta de puerco. Grilled pork chops? Hmmm. What I get is a single slab of overcooked pig, so heavily smoked it's red on the edges. There's no trace of red chile marinade, but here is where my toast's tomatillo finally staggers in.

Enchiladas de la plaza are chafing dish chow, and perhaps not even worthy of that. Three stiff flour tortillas hold thimbles of soft chicken and Cheddar under a drip of green sauce. If something this basic can't cut it, I'm giving up.

Leann McPherson serves dinner to Queen Creek 
resident Debbie Shoemaker.
Leah Fasten
Leann McPherson serves dinner to Queen Creek resident Debbie Shoemaker.

Details

Appetizers:
Vegetable gorditas: $4.50
Tomatillo toast: $5.95
Albóndigas soup (cup): $3.50

Entrees:
Baja fish tacos: $8.50
Red chile relleno: $9.95
Carne Milanese: $12.95
Filete frito pescado: $14.95
Cactus shrimp barbacoa: $14.95

Dessert:
Apple caramel burro: $4.50

Hours: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

6032 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480-595-5633

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So it will surprise no one to learn that Fandango's filete frito pescado falls flat. A chunk of grilled salmon is so overcooked it's obviously been waiting for a home for a long while. "Fiery?" This fish wouldn't have felt pain if spiced while still alive. The best thing on the plate is the fresh spinach leaves, dressed with balsamic vinegar. But how tough would it have been to toss in some fresh mushrooms and peppers, instead of the processed variety found here? The vegetables that go along with the dish will be familiar friends to many folks who've suffered through board-room luncheons -- basic steamed zucchini and carrots.

I expect little outcry, either, with the revelation that cactus shrimp barbacoa comes in DOA. This six-critter dish is straight from a convention-group menu, slathered in commercial-grade barbecue sauce, lounging on a blend of black beans and red peppers that thankfully, at least, pack some heat. A topping of tri-color tortilla frizzles is so banquet-room bland I expect to see a side garnish of parsley, too.

In true hotel-menu fashion, the best thing Fandango has going is its desserts. Selections change weekly, but the apple caramel burro is a safe choice. The presentation is pure sugar theatrics, spooling a hot, baked tortilla with chunky apple filling and ice cream, then dolling it with commercial whipped cream and sliced strawberries. What will get the Fuller Brush crowd cooing is a pretty "sunset" scene of caramel and chocolate, the varying colors splayed like sunbeams.

My dictionary tells me the primary meaning of "fandango" is a lively Spanish dance. Its secondary definition is "tomfoolery." Enough said.

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