The Split Between Promise and Execution

Craig LaBan turns down shots at El Camino Real and suffers through the kitchen’s inconsistencies. 


The raucous pace of which also seemed to unsettle the kitchen, where culinary ambitions were too often sacrificed to sloppy execution. The homemade chips were so greasy, I could see a reflection. The guacamole had the dull olive gloss of avocados mashed too long before dinner. The nachos were ordinary. The desserts? Fried buñuelos as heavy as leaden dough. Gelatinous cobbler. “Seasonal” shaved ice featuring watermelon and pineapple. (Stick with the pecan pie.)

There were a number of promising dishes gone wrong. The cheese-stuffed enchiladas, supposedly baked to order, were so dried out from the heat that their crusts buckled up around the edges like an orphan forgotten in the oven too long. Still, the flavor of the chile-stewed gravy was spot-on earthy with roasted ancho and guajillo peppers, tomatoes, and Coke (a.k.a. “Mexican demiglace”), a reminder that this chef has the right ideas even when the execution doesn’t hit. Similarly, I loved the taste of the meaty Texas chile, with its habanero kick and sassy cinnamon-cumin kiss. It’s a shame it wasn’t adequately reheated.


One Bell – Hit or Miss

El Camino Real [Philadelphia Inquirer]
El Camino Real [Official Site]