Casa Patron: Flavorful Mild Mexican Food

From the outside, Casa Patron looks like any other business in the Ravenna neighborhood – plain, strip-mallish, uninspired. But walk in the door and you are transported to a Mexican Hacienda complete with Zorro inspired chandeliers and cowboy hats hanging over the large downstairs bar.

The dining area of Casa Patron consists of an open area with high ceilings on the lower level, and a smaller, more intimate area of booths and tables in a loft like space. The booths next to the loft balcony let you enjoy the intimacy of the upper area while keeping an eye on the action below and a service bar upstairs means you’ll never have to wait long for your drink.

The menu features traditional Mexican fare but mixes things up with Latin-American dishes like Camarones a la Diabla (large shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers in a hot spicy sauce). 

The meal begins with the expected crispy, salty, just right complimentary chips and two-kinds of salsa; a medium deep red traditional salsa and a pico de gallo variety with a hint of heat.

The cocktail list features a long-list of tequila based drinks and a well-rounded selection of Mexican beers, like Negro Modelo and Dos Equis Amber, on tap.

The Taquitos Patron with chicken ($8.50) is an appetizer fit for four. The taquitos are nicely crisped without the greasiness so often found. The chicken is moist and the guacamole served with the dish is fresh and creamy. If you like your food mild, this is an excellent starter. If you like your Latin on the spicy side, you’ll likely find this dish a bit bland. Dipping in the spicier pico de gallo served with the chips and requesting hot sauce helps spice things up.

Like the Taquitos, the quesadilla appetizer ($8.00) is easily sharable by four or more. Flour tortillas stuffed with cheese or add steak or chicken for an extra $1.00. The cheese is the star here and is so plentiful the steak or chicken flavor gets slightly smothered. 

The Casa Patron Plato Favorito entrée ($18) lets you sample some of the best Casa Patron has to offer. It includes tender steak marinated in a spicy sauce, fresh, meaty and succulent shrimp, and chicken, spiced and pounded thin, and sautéed mushrooms surrounded by super-sized portions of rice and worthy refried beans. The steak was the star of this dish and indicates that any of the dishes on the menu featuring the beef marinated in spicy sauce will be winners. The shrimp was a very close and very satisfying second.

The Fajitas de Pollo ($13) were served in the traditional sizzling manner with a bevy of bright red and green bell peppers and onions and rice, refried beans and flour tortillas on the side. The chicken was well-seasoned but again, not very spicy.

The Enchiladas de Congrejo ($12.95) features enchiladas stuffed with Dungeness crab and topped with salsa verde and Monterey jack cheese.  The salsa verde is just as it should be but a bit overwhelming for the light flavor of the Dungeness crab. The shrimp variation may stand up better to the verde.

Dinner is not complete without a serving of the Coconut Flan; a dish that will convert even the most devout flan-hater. Creamy instead of spongy, with a texture between crème brulee and cheesecake it is infused with a deep, rich coconut flavor. The coconut flan alone is reason to keep coming back to Casa Patron.

Casa Patron delivers good, fresh Mexican and Latin cuisine in a relaxed and friendly ambience. Dishes like the Coconut Flan and the Casa Patron Plato Favorito elevate the cuisine above the typical Seattle Mexican restaurant and the friendly and attentive, but not invasive, service will make Casa Patron a neighborhood favorite.  But, as with most Mexican restaurants in Seattle, it would benefit from turning up the heat.

Casa Patron is located at 805 NE 65th St (at the corner of 65th NE and 8th NE) and is open Monday – Thursday from 11:00am – 12:00am, Friday – Sunday between 8:00am – 2:00am and hosts a daily Happy Hour from 3:00pm – 6:00pm.   Reservations can be made by phoning 206.923.7680.

India and Spain Collide in this Ras Malai

 

At the end of 2008, Jim and I ventured to India to explore, eat and attend a wedding. 

Jim, who puts the P in picky eater, ate everything and LOVED IT!  (Except for the betel leave).  He managed, however, to completely avoid Indian desserts.

Back home Jim’s avoidance technique is foiled by the charming owner of our favorite Indian restaurant, who always brings us a complimentary dessert to sample after we’ve gorged ourselves on dal, jalfrezi and an assortment of curries.  The other week, on two separate occasions (once at the restaurant and once at a friend’s house) Jim was faced with his most dreaded Indian dessert – ras malai.  You see, he just can’t handle the texture of paneer. 

Liking the taste but not necessarily the texture of ras malai myself, Jim’s second encounter with the dreaded dessert started the wheels in my head turning.  How can you get the flavor of ras malai without the texture?

The substitute would have to be able to absorb the flavors of the ras malai sauce and not be too overpowering in its own right.  Hmmm . . . And then, the solution leaped into my mind, FLAN

So, yes, my spin on ras malai is an Indian/Spanish mash-up and against all odds it actually works!  Interested in trying it out for yourself?  Here’s how I did it:

First, the Flan

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 large eggs (I like farm fresh eggs personally, they make a creamier custard)
  • 2 13 oz cans lowfat evaporated milk
  • 1 14 oz can regular sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 TBSP vanilla
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Pour the evaporated milk into a bowl and add the cinnamon stick.  You can proceed to the next step or put the evaporated milk/cinnamon stick combo in the fridge for a few hours to allow the milk to thoroughly soak up the cinnamon flavor. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a largish bowl (if you have a mixing bowl with a pouring spout, that would be ideal), whisk together the 6 eggs.  Next slowly mix in the evaporated milk and condensed milk, sugar and then vanilla.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture into 6-10 ramekins (number depends on size; for the size pictured here, you will need 10 to use all the custard mix). 

Place the ramekins into a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of hot water.  Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes.  Check with a knife slightly off center, if it comes out clean, it’s time to take the ramekins out, cover them and pop them into the fridge for an hour.

Next, the Ras Malai Sauce

  • 3 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsps cardamom powder
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced pistachios for garnish (can also use slivers of dried fruit or almonds)

Pour the milk and 1/2 c. sugar into a saucepan and boil (stirring frequently) until the mixture is thickened and reduced 75%.  Remove from heat, add cardomom powder and mix well.

Remove flan from ramekins and place in a dish (I popped my flans out, by circling the edges of each ramekin with a plastic spatula).

Flan ready for the ras malai sauce

Pour the sauce over the flan, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To serve, plate one flan in a bowl and cover with sauce.  Garnish with sliced pistachios and/or dried fruit.  Voila!

Do you have any foods you can’t eat because of the texture?  How do you work around it, or do you just avoid the foods altogether?

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Guajillo’s: Finally Authentic Mexican Food in Seattle

One of the things I most miss from Southern California is authentic Mexican food – tortas, perfectly spiced mole, sweet corn tamales . . . With its proximity to the border and large number of immigrants from Mexico, Southern California is a Mexican food wonderland.  Seattle, is not, until now.

In May, after four years of scouring for real Mexico City food in Seattle, Michelle Barajas and Ed Eaton opened Guajillo’s, a spin-off of the Barajas family’s San Antonio restaurant of the same name.  The menu is based on the food of Mexico City and features diverse authentic meals all for $9.95 (lunch specials are $6.95). 

Having read a favorable review in the Seattle Times, my husband and I hustled over to Guajillo’s for dinner on Wednesday night – it was closed.  We had neglected to notice in the review and online, that Guajillo’s is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am – 3 pm.  On Fridays it stays open until 8 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays it’s open from 5pm to 9pm.  So, Saturday night we headed back to 217 James Street (on James between Second and Third Avenue, downtown).

Upon entering we were warmly greeted and entreated to sit wherever we chose.  As soon as we were seated, handmade tortilla chips and salsa were brought over.  Oh how I had missed homemade tortilla chips.  The salsa had a spiciness lacking in other Seattle mex joints – Guajillo’s is not afraid of spice – thank goodness.  After taking care of the first order of business, choosing from the nine Mexican Beers on offer (Negro Modelo for my husband, J., and Pacifico for me), we scanned the specialties on the menu.  We were quickly flummoxed.  What to order?  Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle?  Mole Verde con Pechuga de Pollo?  It was all so tantalizing. 

Given my NY’s resolution to cut back on meat, I narrowed my options down to Enfrijoladas (bean sauce covered tortillas with onions queso fresco and sour cream) or Enmoladas de Queso (tortillas stuffed with queso fresco and topped with onions and a rich, spicy mole sauce.  I asked our server, which dish she preferred and was happy to receive a true response instead of the “oh, everything’s so good” response you often receive.  She said that if I like mole sauce (I do) then I should definitely try the Enmoladas.  I quickly accepted her suggestion.  My husband ordered the Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle (meatballs filled with egg and rice in chipotle pepper sauce).  Both dishes (and all entrees) came with refried beans, rice, and warm corn tortillas.

First, I have to just say that the refried beans that came with the meal were not your typical afterthought – they were smoky, smooth and so good that refried bean hater J. ate every single bite. 

Enmoladas

Enmoladas

The Enmoladas were heavenly.  The queso fresco was fresh, the onions tangy, and the mole sauce both rich and spicy.  I’m embarrassed to say that the Enmoladas, rice and beans were so good that I ate way past the point of fullness. 

J. pretty much licked his plate clean, scooping up every bit of his savory sauce with more tortilla chips.  I used a tortilla to sample some of his sauce and it was incredibly good.

Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle

Albandigas en Salsa Chipotle

We weren’t alone in our amazement at Guajillo’s – another diner, said it was the best Mexican food he had tasted outside of Los Angeles.  High praise, indeed.

Although we were way too full for dessert, when a complimentary flan was sent over, neither of us could say no – I mean that would be just rude, wouldn’t it?  Now neither of us is a flan lover.  After many encounters with bland flan, it’s a dessert that is never ordered by either of us.  That just changed.  Guajillo’s flan is melt-in-your-mouth good.  A light sauce of orange and honey coat the flan that has the perfect firm, yet yielding texture. 

We’ve already planned our next outing to Guajillo’s (Lunch with colleagues from work) and are looking forward to systematically trying every offering on the menu.  Flan, however, will be a permanent dessert order ;)

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