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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   THE DISH
Dee-lish! - El Trocadero
Old Town Restaurant Prepares Traditional Mexican Fare with a Light Touch
May, 2006 - Issue #19
It's always a refreshing experience when one's taste buds are liberated from culinary stigmas. Not all Thai food is spicy. Italian food is more than just pizza and pasta. And after sampling El Trocadero Mesquite Steakhouse in Old Town Newhall, some diners may discover that Mexican cuisine can indeed be light and fresh rather than heavy and greasy.

With rustic wooden furniture, colored concrete floors and adobe-like columns and beams, the dining room of this Old Town Newhall restaurant evokes images of an old time desert ranch in Nogales, Mexico. A covered patio along San Fernando Road also offers seating for diners; just don't expect any cattle or tumbleweeds to drift by.

Unlike the fast and heavy Mexican cuisine to which many diners may be accustomed, the fare at El Trocadero is surprisingly light, offering a variety of Sonoran-style dishes with fresh, crisp and clean flavors. The Albondigas Soup ($2.95 for a cup) features meatballs in a clear, yet savory, beef broth with tomatoes and onions. The Sopa de Tortillas ($2.95 for a cup) is also a nice soup to start. Transcending the usual mishmash of soggy chips, broth, sour cream and guacamole, El Trocadero's version of Tortilla Soup is clear and uncluttered with a smoky chipotle-infused beef broth, avocado, cheese and crisp corn tortillas.

The Antojitos Sonorenses (traditional Sonoran dishes) offered on El Trocadero's menu may sound familiar to diners, however, the taste and textures of these dishes are anything but. For example, El Trocadero's Enchiladas ($7.95 for three) feature corn tortillas filled with beef, chicken or cheese, cooked in a red chili sauce, and then covered with only lettuce and cheese rather than a dousing of more chili sauce. Even though the enchiladas aren't drowning in a pool of chili sauce, the infused red tinge on the tortillas lends more than enough flavor to carry this dish.

The Tacos Dorados ($7.50 for three) is another delicious offering as hard-shelled corn tortillas are filled with shredded beef or chicken and shredded potatoes - no cheese, no lettuce, no tomatoes, and no grease - simple yet tasty. The potatoes in the Tacos Dorados impart an interesting depth of flavor, especially when paired with the beef.

Diners also have the options of creating their own combination plates comprised of the Enchiladas, Tacos Dorados, Flautas (fried corn tortillas filled with beef or chicken), Tostadas (fried corn tortilla topped with beef or chicken, covered with beans, lettuce and cheese), or Gorditas (lightly fried corn tortillas filled with beef or chicken, dipped in chili sauce and topped with beans). The Chico combination features any two of these items, the Grande features any three and the Gordo features any four items. The combination plates are served with beans and rice.

In addition to its lighter fare, El Trocadero also offers a wide selection of mesquite-grilled menu items that also set it apart from other Mexican restaurants. All of El Trocoadero's Platos Fuertes dishes are prepared on an open-flame mesquite grill and served with soup or salad, refried or whole beans, tortillas and a choice of rice or a baked potato. Mesquite grilled dishes include everything from tender chicken breast, to shrimp, to a juicy 12-ounce Ribeye steak. However, diners should try the specialty of the house: grilled Flank Steak ($15.95). Although flank steak can be a tough cut of meat, El Trocadero's flank steak is perfectly grilled and remains tender and juicy after being rubbed with garlic, salt and spices.

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El Trocadero Mesquite Steakhouse is located on 24274 San Fernando Road in Old Town Newhall. The restaurant can be reached at 284-6615.
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