El Paraiso28 January, 2012
516 S Van Dorn St # A
Alexandria, VA 22304
Tonight I shall splurge on myself and eat out. I am at a little El Salvadorian restaurant a short walk from my flat, El Paradiso. The atmosphere is authentic. The air is fragrant with spice and a mix of frying beef and tilapia. It is a rich smell that makes the mouth water. A football (soccer) game plays on the one television and the announcer can just be heard below the energetic conversations. The patrons speak an amalgam of Spanish and English with bits of recognisable dialect punctuating the emphatic expressions.
On the menu tonight is a pan seared rockfish with rice and salad. The photo in the menu was food porn and it matched the aromas and conversations so well, there could be no other choice, Uncle Tony’s warning about the uncertain results of ordering fish on a busy weekend night be damned. At least it’s not Monday.
I’ve paired the entree with the house Chardonnay. This is where the only flaw in the wait staff is noticed. The waitress asked if that was the red or the white. A bit unforgivable, that. Even over looking such an obvious ignorance, she would have done better to simply convey the order to the bar and trust them to get it right.
The meal is preceded by chips and salsa, a staple, a requirement, when presenting Latin American food to Norte Americanos. The salsa is fresh and the chips have been made recently. When Mr. Rockfish is presented he is served grinning. The skin is crisp and crunchy, though perhaps a tad over rubbed with salt. The meat beneath it is soft and easily separates from the bone. It pairs well with the Chardonnay. As for the sides, their flavour is subtle, purposefully plain and understated to counter the salty tang of the rockfish. In all, the meal is a pleasing treat, both visually and gastronomically. Definite food porn.
River’s rating, three out of four smiling fish heads, the wine mistake still bugs me.