Three days in El Valle: Swing and a miss

You may not know this, but I rarely provide negative feedback for dining experiences.  The job is hard enough, the margins generally not great and the success rate relatively low, without every joker with a laptop and a camera phone lamenting his or her one experience at your restaurant.  Yet there I sat, camera in hand, and blog post writing itself with every excruciating moment.  I’d read a review online AND been told by our friend at the hotel that “99% of the people he’d sent there loved it.”  Well, sadly, at least on this night, we were the 1%.  The “new” place we tried was Latitud 32 in El Cielo.  Here’s how it went…

Looking in a very beautiful entry to the El Cielo Winery

Looking in a very beautiful entry to the El Cielo Winery

I want to reiterate that I rarely write bad reviews, especially for places I’ve only been once.  And I’d remind you that earlier in the same day we’d had a very solid breakfast at Dona Esthela  AND a delicious, spectacular, top notch experience at Malva, so the expectations were maybe a bit high.  Nevertheless, we pulled up and saw the above photo and thought there was no way the place would be anything but stellar.

I don’t mind waiting, even when I have a reservation.  Stuff happens.  Turns out the “stuff” on this night was a wedding party. A large, happy wedding party.  I like happiness and revelry, so wasn’t bothered by the volume level nor the mild 25 minute delay in seating us.  But when we did finally get seated and we asked about a tasting menu, the server did the chef no favors by saying that they could accommodate us.  The next hour (cut short because we didn’t eat most of the food) was one moment of disappointment outmatched only by the shock of the subsequent, even greater disappointment.

We started with a tuna carpaccio, which was ordinary.  Not enough to dampen our enthusiasm for such a highly recommended spot, but the nerves about a significantly disappointing experience already started kicking in.

CAM00526

Next was this large portion of very nearly mediocre dorado.  I can’t say anything special about it except that the vegetables were delicious.  That’s probably not the compliment you ever want with your fish or meat dish, “yeah, I ordered the fish with a side of vegetables…the vegetables were amazing.” Not a good look. Can’t say more, which is rare.  CAM00525

We’d already had grilled octopus today and it was already very good, so we would have been happy with a just serviceable version this time around.  No dice. It was like wearing a tux to a backyard wedding.  Very overdressed. Ba-dum-bum.  Seriously, if everything’s working right, there’s no need to overdress the dish.  Maybe some kitchen control was needed.  Again, I think maybe the mistake here was in even telling us they could do a tasting menu in the first place.  I assume the kitchen was taxed and just couldn’t pay close enough attention to avoid just slathering extra sauce on our octopus and overcooking our Dorado.  Speaking of overcooked…

My "medium rare" steak

My “medium rare” steak

This was “steak.”  You know that joke when someone orders a well done steak and someone else says that you might as well just have ordered a hamburger?  Well, I don’t eat my hamburgers well done, either, but this was basically a crime against meat.  You see the photo, right?  That isn’t an optical illusion.  I am certain we asked for medium rare and medium.  Yeah, missed that a bit, huh?  I won’t waste the time with the dessert.  I will go to a dinner where I know the actual chef for this restaurant is preparing the food, but I can’t imagine with Finca Altozano, Malva, Corazon Del Tierra and even Dona Esthela’s marvelous kitchen, what it would take to get me to revisit this spot.  You never know, but it’s questionable.

I loved our trip to the Valle, and even enjoyed this adventure despite the really bad food experience.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to try a new place and we were together.  Can’t win ‘em all.

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2 thoughts on “Three days in El Valle: Swing and a miss

    • So very mad I didn’t check your site sooner. Just returned from Austin…would have loved your recommendations! Alas. Still managed to get to Odd Duck and Uchi – and several quality craft beer spots. A great trip. Next time I’ll know where else to look. Cheers

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