Sunday, July 19, 2009

El Mirador

Nashville Restaurants and Food
El Mirador
4235 Nolensville Pike

Deep, rich, smoky mole. Tangy tomatillo sauce. Warm, melt-in your mouth, homemade corn tortillas. Do we have your attention yet? Just a couple of authentic items on a Nashville Mexican restaurant menu can get us excited. El Mirador has far too many for us to sample in any one meal. We look forward to the challenge.

You can’t beat the location: right next to the K and S ethnic food supermarket on Nolensville Road. El Mirador has only been open for a month, but execution in the kitchen and out in the dining room seems pretty good. There was only one flaw in the entire meal. Pepsi managed to come out rather warm and flat, which the few meager pieces of ice could not correct.

Back to that food. Sauces appear to be a house specialty and they have a number of unique ones for this area. Vallarta is described as an orange tomato sauce. They serve several cremadas, cream sauce dishes. A parmesan cream sauce is another one you don’t see much. Interesting dishes include molcajet, which we assume is served in the traditional stone cookware. They have a beef and chicken version in a spicy sauce with mushrooms, onions and avocado. A seafood version comes with prawns and octopus. The spicier cousin of that prawn and octopus combo comes in a blazing red sauce and was making a gentleman at a nearby table sweat as he soothed his tongue with a Corona.

El Mirador puts together several nopales dishes. The cactus pads are sliced and provide a nice tart accent to dishes like pork. In this case the pork and nopales come in a lovely light sauce with onions and red bell peppers. The pulled pork has plenty of bark and appears to be marinated somehow, giving it an out of the world flavor. The combination is excellent and even better when piled onto one of the homemade corn tortillas. The fluffy, lightly grilled tortillas are some of the better in town. El Mirador also puts a nice spin on rice, giving it a quick grill it seems for a little extra punch of flavor and texture.

The menu is huge and an interesting dish pops up in nearly every section. The promise of mole caught our attention immediately and the Veggie Eater actually designed her own dish to take advantage.

Veggie Eater: It’s been quite some time since I’ve found eaten at a Mexican restaurant that offers mole, so I jumped at the opportunity. The menu paired chicken enchiladas with mole, but the folks here were happy to substitute cheese enchiladas and I was thrilled with the result. Cheese enchiladas in and of themselves are not terribly interesting, but when topped with homemade mole, they are fabulous. Yes, that is correct, the mole is homemade. T his was the common brown version; slightly sweet, slightly chocolatey, silky in texture. Dried, roasted chiles and herbs pestled into bits and then rehydrated. The rice was good; it has a slightly crunchy flavor which also seems fried. It makes a nice contrast of the ooey-gooey of the beans and enchiladas. They serve beans and a Mexican version of slaw (curtido) with the chips and salsa (nice and fresh, with plenty of cilantro). I had originally had my heart set on Korean for lunch, but alas it was not to be. This managed to turn my disappointment around and set my Sunday back onto a positive course.

Meat Eater: They gave us two little complimentary sopapillas with whipped cream for a surprise desert. They were the perfect end to a really good meal. The servers on our visit all spoke English quite well. The interior is a cheery and bright Mexican village motif. The owner has been running express type restaurants in Nashville for some time. This is his first try at a sit down place. We’re glad he took the plunge. Nashville needs more menus like this one.

Update 8/9/2010: A recent trip to El Mirador showed that the Nolensville Road joint is still serving up quality Mexican food. Steaks can be hit and miss in a Mexican restaurant. I ordered mine medium-rare at El Mirador and was flabbergasted when it actually came out that way. Usually they're well done and pounded flatter than a pancake. The house named El Mirador steak was a tasty, marinated t-bone and reasonably tender given the thin cut. Rolled up in some house made corn tortillas (hot off the press) with some fresh, creamy guacamole and pico de gallo and I had an excellent lunch. The Veggie Eater enjoyed her chile relleno, which came in a Guatemalan style omelet style batter: very light and eggy. They're still doing the little plate of curtido slaw and refried beans as a free starter and the chunks of onion and little bits of pepper give the salsa some serious kick. Speaking of which they don't mess around with the grilled jalapenos. Even the usually spice loving Veggie Eater was impressed by the heat.

El Mirador on Urbanspoon


Lannae said...

Mole? Real Mole?! I am very interested. Was it nutty, earthy, pungent, and cocoa-y at the same time? I have been searching for dark brown Oaxacan Mole in Nashville. Thanks for the heads up!

Eric and Katie said...

Lanne: Yep, it was pretty darn good. There are a few places in town that seem to be serving store bought mole. El Mirador mole is more complex, deeper, cocoa-y and earthy. Not the best we have ever had, but pretty darn good. We really want to get back and try some of those other sauces as well...

Anonymous said...

This is Mexican food made WITH LOVE. The pork enchiladas with the chili verde sauce was over the top. Great service, too. THANKS for the recommendation. You nailed this one.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the cactus dishes are "Nopales," not "Napoles." Just thought the reader would like to know. ;-)

Eric and Katie said...

Thanks anon...stupid mistake on our part..thanks for pointing it out. Now that Los Rosales is gone this place is more important than ever...

Eric and Katie said...

There's been a lot of back and forth over this place in the blogs...some people have reported real duds on the menu. Perhaps they have Los Arcos syndrome, where half the time the food was really good and half the time kinda mediocre. I hope El Mirador can balance it all out...we really appreciate their efforts at doing something different here.

EdKing said...

Well...the THRILL is GONE. Three extremely mediocre meals in a row. So the search is back on.