Wednesday, October 13, 2010

El Gato Negro


After my one and only previous meal at El Gato Negro, I left the restaurant without much of a reason to return. But if Ray Nagin has taught us anything, it's that everyone deserves a second chance. (Wait... that doesn't sound right...) Besides, according to the First Lady of Blackened Out, Lindsay, I didn't "order right" on my first visit.

So I went back a second time, and a third. Each meal a bit better than the previous one, but neither elevating my opinion of the restaurant to a higher level on the Blackened Out rating scale.

Fajitas (above) are served with a melange of multi-colored peppers, tomato, onion, mushrooms, garlic, and whole green onions dressed with a flavorful marinade and grilled on the flat top. Thin, long, wide cuts of filet mignon are served in large portions with rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo. At around $19, the portion is large enough to split two ways and is probably the best value on the menu.

Enchiladas are stuffed with a fair amount of chopped chicken or shrimp and covered with a heavy hand of cheese, but the sweet oregano salsa served on the side just isn't my bag. Same goes for the tomatillo and habanero salsas included in the sampler, and the gloppy and greasy consistency of the queso fundido is (to put it lightly) unappetizing.

My favorite item on the menu is the chorizo taco, whose flour tortilla can barely be wrapped around the overflowing amount of spicy ground pork. But here is my main grind against El Gato Negro. I can handle $3.75 per taco, especially because the ingredients are fresh and the portion size ample. But $1.25 each to add guacamole or sour cream to one taco? If you want salsa, it's an extra $0.75 per taco. With all of the nickel and diming, one taco with all of the above fixings will run you $7.00 altogether.

No doubt that the margaritas are excellent, but you pay for it: $11.75 for a top shelf version. The house orange and lime concoction is superb in simplicity, but other offbeat flavors are worth sampling, such as refreshing and herbacious combination of pineapple, cilantro, and lime. The only issue is that the chunks of fresh fruit proved to be a problem when sipping through a straw.

I know, my complaints may seem contradictory. Fresh ingredients cost more, and it's not surprising for the restaurant to pass the premium along to the customer. But $1.25 for a dollop of sour cream on a single taco? $9.75 for the guacamole appetizer? This is the French Quarter, but still.

El Gato Negro - Par

10 comments:

termite said...

suggestion: how adding an address with each post?? :)

thanks!

Rene said...

Termite,

Great idea.

81 French Market Place bullet New Orleans bullet 70116 bullet 504.525.9752

Beth & Jeremy said...

Someone had convinced me that they offered Queso Flameado at El Gato Negro, but with your posting of the Fundido, I'm thinking there is no flameado. Verdad?

I haven't been to EGN, and rarely trust NO'ean suggestions for Mexican/South American cuisine (I'm from S. Texas). From what you've posted, it seems like a Quarter version of Superior Grill.

It costs SO little to MAKE fresh and delicious Mexican food. I cannot stand when restaurants price their food by assuming their customers are ignorant.

Becky said...

El Gato Negro is better than Superior Grill, but it's no Felipe's. They've got the right combo of affordability and fresh, tasty food.

Peter said...

Beth & Jeremy,

I would say that EGN serves markedly better food than Superior Grill, and (save for the chips out of a bag) they use fresh ingredients.

But the cost is just much higher than I am willing to pay for that level of food, even if it's good for the most part. The nickel and diming on the add ons is what really bugs me.


To answer your question re: queso flameado, I don't believe it's on the menu. Otherwise, I probably would have ordered it.

Laura said...

The guacamole appetizer is made at the table with at least 2 full avocados along with other fresh ingredients... it is a huge serving and well worth the price- you will even have some leftover so as not to have to spend more to get it with your taco. El gato negro cannot even be in the same sentence as superior grill. The drinks are insanely good and fresh unlike superior and might cost less for a serving the same size. Most restaurants in the french quarter are overpriced, it comes with the location but at least this one has fresh delicious ingredients.

Beth & Jeremy said...

@Peter I completely agree. There is no reason to make a profit on add-ins. I remember in San Antonio when Mexican chains started showing up on a side of town known for being upper-end. If you went to the original location, you got free chips and salsa (all homemade). If you went to the new location in the upper-end area, you got charged for it.

Everyone knows you can't eat a good taco without some salsa, pico de gallo, or guacamole. Avocados in LA are expensive, so I understand a moderate charge, but seriously, you can make salsa and pico with most of the veggie offal from your other dishes. To charge extra is greedy and ugly.

A really good fajita plate shouldn't be more than $12, especially if you're using skirt steak (far better than flank for fajitas, IMO).

Thanks to you and Becky for the Superior Grill comments.

I do like Felipe's. When I lived in Broadmoor, it was the closest I could get to Tex-Mex.

Peter said...

Laura,

I agree with you on the quality of the ingredients at EGN, as I pointed out in the post. The food is cut and dry better than Superior.

The French Quarter location does necessitate a price increase, as do the fresh ingredients. But the high cost of add ons is unwarranted, especially when it comes to something as basic as salsa on your taco. I buy avocados at Rouse's for $1.39, so maybe EGN is indeed running a 25% food cost on the guacamole appetizer. But $1.25 for sour cream on one taco? Come on. And the margaritas are outstanding, but not $12 worth of outstanding.

Plain and simple, there are other Mexican restaurants in the city that I believe are a better ROI than El Gato Negro.

Anonymous said...

seriously,

just shoot 3 or 4 shots of tequila on your way to Taqueria Corona. You'll be happier with the food, and won't have to worry cause your wallet will be fat

RBPoBoy said...

Check out Sarita's Grill on Freret near Napoleon.