Thursday, September 5, 2013

El Camino (Review)

Back in January, Riley and I set out our dining resolutions and came up with a list of our top 10 spots for 2013. We still have a few restaurants left and unfortunately not a lot of time until we ring in 2014, but this past weekend we ticked El Camino off our list and it definitely deserves its' spot at the top. Ottawa was buzzing for months about chef Matthew Carmichael's much anticipated new establishment on Elgin Street. The atmosphere is casual and unpretentious, the lighting is dim, but perfect enough to see your food and dining companion. The cocktails are quite unique and almost deserve their own post. They mix together intricate flavors and the tequila is definitely a requirement. We started off with some chips and guacamole while we pondered over the menu. The chips were crisp and deliciously spiced and the guacamole had added flavors of chili peppers, tomatoes and some secret spices. We had the best seat in the house overlooking the kitchen where we were able to chat with some of the chefs while they prepared our meals. Their passion for perfection and flavor combinations was really impressive and made our meal that much more enjoyable. 

We decided to share a few appetizers and try some of the award winning tacos recently named by Ottawa Citizen Style. We tried the Shrimp Dumplings, the Crispy Prawn Betel Leaves and an assortment of tacos (beef, lamb, crispy fish, pork and ox tongue). I like to think I have a pretty adventurous palate, but I was very hesitant to try the ox tongue taco, but our server highly recommended that we try and I am sure glad that we did. It was definitely the best taco we tried as it was so tender, juicy and full of flavor. 

Our server was very friendly and down to earth and props to him for getting us to step out of our comfort zone. We enjoyed the company, atmosphere, food and drinks for hours and were never rushed to leave once we finished our meal.

They don't take reservations so you may have to wait a while, but it is definitely worth it. We gave the host our phone number and grabbed a drink next door instead of standing around smelling the delicious food.

Verdict: Cozy and chill atmosphere, unique flavor combinations, unpretentious service.

Cost: Tacos are $4 each. Individual plates are $8-$9 each or $16 and $18. Cocktails are a bit more expensive at $10-$13.

Hours: Tuesday - Friday 12:00pm-2:30pm. 5:30pm-2:00am. Saturday and Sunday 5:30pm-2:00am.

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