Okay Mexican in Pasadena.
The trick about Mexican Cuisine I’m learning…is learning about the Mexican States.
Yes, there are Mexican States. 31 one of them, in fact.
The United Mexican States are a federation of 31 free and sovereign states, which form a union that exercises a degree of jurisdiction over the Federal District and other territories.
Each state has its own constitution, congress, and a judiciary, and its citizens elect by direct voting a governor for a six-year term, and representatives to their respective unicameral state congresses for three-year terms.
That’s probably more education on Mexico than most Americans have had in a lifetime.
Yucatán is in Southeastern Mexico, right along the Gulf. Think of it as the Mexican State staring at Houston from across the waters.
The cuisine of Yucatán is unique, even among Mexican cuisine.
El Portal is tucked away in a nice sized Retail complex across from Vroman’s off Colorado. It’s actually impossible to see from that direction, so you’re coming in from the back.
It actually got a bit confusing for a second there, because I almost turned left into the Coffee place across the way…that is…affiliated with El Portal.
Anyway, you head in. Wait for the Hostess, and have a seat. Me, they stuck me by a window, just near the bar, with a clear view of the Futbol game going on.
Okay. Not surprised. Maybe like one dude is really watching it. Me, I’m here to work.
Because of my visit to El Faisan Y El Venado, I am totally psyched to know there’s a Yucatán place over in Pasadena. I remember those Panuchos from that visit, and I SO want to–
The Panuchos here are made with…Chicken?
And then to find out that Panuchos are supposed to be made with Turkey or Chicken is a…well, bit of a shock. Because the Pork ones I had were…spellbinding. I mean, I’m planning on another lunch at El Faisan as soon as I can because of those Panuchos.
And these were, well…
Well, skip down to the food section, and you’ll find out.
El Portal, comfortable space. Great looking. The audience seems to be on the not-Latino, local and elderly side. It does make me wonder about the menu, and how adventurous it can be. Still, it’s a…nice place.
What’s El Faisan Y El Venado’s address again?
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: As I said, I like Yucatán food. I like it a lot. It’s not something I feel I’m an expert in…yet, but I’ve had some home-run worthy meals.
Of course, like a lot of Mexican places, El Portal start off the Chips Y Salsa.
Like always, Chips and Salsa were nice, tomatoey and spicy. I mean, you’ve had this before. You’ll have it again, and you’ve like this before…and you’ll like it again.
Next came the Albondigas Soup with Meatballs, and this…this was damn good. Now, Albondigas soup is a traditional Mexican soup recipe featuring spicy meatballs offset by the fresh flavors of vegetables and herbs. I’ve never had it before, and…one bite in, I became a fan of Albondigas Soup. Yes, the kid inside me loved the meatballs, but the Food Writer in me loved the broth with the veggies and potatoes. Wonderful stuff. I so want to have it again.
Finally, came the main event, the Panuchos, the star attraction:
A Panucho is a Mexican food specialty from the Yucatán made with a refried tortilla that is stuffed with refried black beans and topped with chopped cabbage, pulled chicken or turkey, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, and pickled jalapeño pepper.
Panuchos are mostly sold in the evenings when parties of friends or family go out to eat. Panuchos are served at fast food restaurants called Panucherias which also serve Salbutes, Tostadas, Tortas, and Caldos. Panuchos are fried and topped to order and often served with soda drink.
I see Panuchos on the menu, I tend to get them. But my first experience with them was at El Faisan Y El Venado, and there I had Panuchos with Cochinita Pibil Pork. Since then, I’ve had them with Turkey and I’ve had them with…sigh…Chicken.
Yeah, like I said, I liked Stewed Pork better.
The Chicken here…I don’t know. I mean, the meat wasn’t that tasty. It created an absence instead of adding something. It was like I was eating, this wonderfully crispy treaty, with pickled onions, avocado, and beans…around not much.
And this is the traditional way to prepare Panuchos, so it’s not like El Portal did anything wrong. It’s just…they…didn’t wow…me.
They hooked me on their Albondigas Soup, though. Man that was good.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: El Portal is hard to see. It’s hard to see from Green Street. I passed by it for years, not noticing it. You can’t see it at all from Colorado. There’s a way to get to it next to Yahaira’s Café off Colorado, but it’s a bit hidden. Know that going in.
PARKING: El Portal, and the whole Retail Complex it calls home, shares a Lot out back, accessible off Green Street. It’s sometimes Valet powered, though a Valet is always on duty. Lunch hours, when I went, the Valet is merely going to give you a ticket, and let you park yourself. You then take the ticket into the Restaurant, get it validated, and that makes parking free. You might want to tip the Valet anyway. Dude is sitting out there in the sun all day, and that’s not fun.
695 E. Green St.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tel: (626) 795-8553
Monday: 10:30 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 10:30 am – 9:30 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am – 8:30 pm