We had been dying to give El Vez a try after hearing so much about it from friends and after seeing it on the “You’re Bacon Me Crazy” episode of Guilty Pleasures on the Food Network.
El Vez is part of Philadelphia’s Stephen Starr restaurant group. We’ve eaten at other restaurants of the group’s in the past, and although we had some issues with service – our meals were always very good.
We had the pleasure of finally dining at El Vez on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, and after all of the hype we were not disappointed. Although it was lunch time, we were certainly glad we made a reservation early in the week because it was packed! There was not an empty seat at the fabulous circular bar which features a spinning bicycle as its centerpiece, nor was there an empty table in the house. We requested a booth when making our reservation, and upon arrival our request was met. There was one booth waiting for us when we checked in for our lunch reservation.
The majority of the diners around us were ordering the restaurant’s brunch. This seemed to be very popular and all of the dishes looked amazing, however, we were in the mood for some tacos.
As soon as our waitress arrived we ordered chips and salsa for the table. The salsa was fresh and included diced jalapenos which was a welcomed addition to kick things up a notch. We also enjoyed the salsa verde very much. However, we all agreed that we could’ve done without the salsa roja. The salsa verde and fresh chips took us back to our days in where salsa verde was a staple at all of our meals so much so that we had to request seconds.
We asked our waitress for drink recommendations, and we each decided on the Granada on the rocks for our first round. The combination of gold tequila, triple sec, fresh pomegranate juice, and lime made for a refreshing treat after hours of trekking through countless city blocks that morning. On its own, pomegranate can be a bit much, but mixed together this combination was a winner! For our next round of drinks, we ordered the Rojo Sangria which was made with red wine, Patron Citronage, brandy, seasonal fruit and spices. We were very pleased with El Vez’s version of sangria, and it was very closely comparable to one of our all time favorite sangrias crafted by the one and only Jose Andres.
For our entrees we were torn between a few dishes since so much of the menu was so tempting. We decided on the taco tasting platter which consisted of one each of sea bass, beef, chicken, carnitas, and mahi tacos. This beautiful platter was fantastic, and by itself is worth another visit to El Vez. The presentation was to perfect to eat, but don’t worry – we eventually dove right in! Each taco was perfectly prepared in a homemade corn tortilla, and if we had to pick a favorite it would have been the sea bass. Our next entrée was the grilled beef tacos. The entrée arrived with three individually assemebled tacos featuring perfectly charred grilled beef (cooked to our requested medium-rare) roasted tomatillo-chipotle salsa, and pico de gallo. Again, they were each served on perfectly crafted and fresh corn tortillas. We point this out because a number of restaurants in the past have had serious difficulty with perfecting the corn tortilla. They are either too dry for our liking or fall apart at first touch – which renders them moot all together. For our final entrée we were completely dead locked between the oxtail enchiladas and the carnitas tacos. When done well, carnitas are one of our absolute favorites. After spending time in Mexico, and experiencing just how carnitas should taste, our expectations are set pretty high. However, when we asked our waitress for her opinion, she recommended the oxtail. In result, our oxtail enchiladas arrived in a personal skilled perfectly wrapped and drenched in chihuaha cheese, crema, and red onion with a side of salsa guajillo. Again, the presentation was terrific, and these enchiladas were mouth watering.
It is worth noting that our reservation was at noon which was when we saw the restaurant at its fullest. However, by the time we were wrapping up – around 1:30 p.m., there was plenty of available seating at the bar and at tables throughout the restaurant.
Overall, our meal was “mexcellent.” Our service was fantastic, and our waitress kept the drinks as well as the chips and salsa flowing. We highly recommend El Vez for anyone who is in the area and looking to try Mexican fare at the best Philadelphia can do! We are so glad we took a chance on El Vez. We will certainly be back, and we are looking forward to trying their brunch menu.
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