People can dance it, women can wear it, now you can eat it in the Design District. El Bolero is an upscale Mexican restaurant with an enticing menu, an active bar scene, and a charming dog-friendly patio. While the restaurant does a stellar brunch, return for dinner for one of the best sophisticated Mexican restaurants in town. El Bolero joins the ranks of Komali, Mesa, Mesomaya, and Wild Salsa in offering reassurance that Mexico is a vastly richer culinary culture than the vulgarized and atrophied caricature that is Tex-Mex.
At a recent media event I got the chance to try some of the specialties from the brunch menu. Life started with a mimosa alternative: Casa de Moneda ($10) was a mason jar-enclosed cocktail of XO Reserve Rum seasoned with lemon, mint and agave. Homemade chips quickly followed. They are like crack on account of a dusting of chilies (guajillo, chile de arbol, ancho). To accompany them a platter of guacamole con totopos ($12), freshly made guacamole with a hash of bacon and basil drizzled in lime. This could see you through, but then you would be missing a lot of other good stuff. Tartar de Atun ($15, below) is the familiar ahi tuna, in this case diced and tossed with avocado, mango, and lime, all built in a tower for presentation. Light and well-balanced, this was also fun ladled on the crack chips.
Tacos in homemade tortillas (including blue-corn tortillas) are a big part of the menu. Think of the tortilla as just a container and each taco as a separate dish, then they take on perspective. The classic al pastor ($10 for 3) is a triumph as a result of the ancho-rubbed meat being cooked on a trompo wisely-placed (for showmanship purposes) visibly front and center in the kitchen. The sweet topping of pineapple relish draws on pork’s universal affinity for fruit accompaniment.
Ribeye taco, $14 for 3, (you can specify how you want the meat cooked if the default medium is not your preference) is embellished with poblano, yellow and red chili peppers and sautéed onions all topped with chorizo, queso fresco and guacamole. Tacos al camaron (shrimp tacos), $14 for 3) can either be tempura-fried (recommended for the sublime texture and sweetness) or grilled on a bed of shredded cabbage and topped with corn relish, chipotle aioli, and a slice of avocado. Comfort food at its finest.
We have to give a shout-out to the Huevos Benedictine con Jalapeno Crab Cakes (12.50), eggs Benedict with jalapeño crab cakes. The jalapeño is the fig leaf to make it Mexican, but this is a stonking good eggs Benedict on its merits.
Desserts are the familiar flan, churrros, tres leches, and arroz con leche cake. Already too full to appreciate these, I will let you experiment.
Overall, a lunch that anyone, Mexican food lover or not, will enjoy. Recommended.