With one spastic twitter tweet, executive chef Jonathan Jones accepted my request to taste & talk about the… on-the-way-to-fully-existing… Xuco Xicana. El Patio brought Jonathan on board to complete the sassy Mexican menu makeover for the Midtown location. While keeping the traditional favorites El Patio established, Jonathan is using his talent to spice things up with fresh new flavors. Aye Carumba!
As I passed a pigeon in the parking lot, the excitement began to peak. The Beav is behind those doors… Papa Beav, to be exact. Will his chefness make its way through the dining room, only to take the very seat beside this señorita? Si.
Por Favor y Gracias.
Curiosity overload approached quickly after reading previous interviews with newspapers and magazines… Um, this chef proves to be quite… naughty. We first met a few months ago at the… pause… Star Chefs gala at the Four Seasons. He maintains BFF status with foraging aficionado, Randy Rucker of Bootsie’s, who actually named Jonathan as his mentor. Sniffle.
Our next encounter was at the Menu of Menus Houston Press event while he was dishing out gastropub faves from his restaurant on Washington, Beaver’s. Through these meetings, my tentative plan to begin stalking thus commenced.
ATTENTION PEOPLE EASILY OFFENDED BY NAKED PICTURES OF WOMEN ON RESTAURANT WALLS:
Do not move your mouse any further, for there awaits… nakedness. This is not PG-13 people! We are quickly approaching the R-rated section of this article. This writer takes nada responsibility for nakedness induced therapy necessary to remove this vision henceforth burned into your eyes. For those lounging around with a salty margarita slash Playboy grin, um, your relaxedness will weather the storm. For what lies ahead, holy rollers must retreat instead… This is no place for the easily frightened to frolic.
This painting of Mrs. El Patio has been used, along with THE El Patio parrot, to bring to life the Xuco Xicana… logo.
Moving right along…
Pure Peruvian joy ascended as Jonathan delivered… ceviche. Leche de tigre with mainly ruby red grapefruit and orange, fresh cilantro, radishes, onion, and very little lime. The marinade is made with celery, onions, and carrots that have all been crushed and salted. My ceviche was from the day before, so it was marinated a little more than normal… The status of my ceviche is comparable to creations by executive chef Roberto Castre of Latin Bites Café… A Peruvian dish of delish!
The build-your-own Gulf fish tacos are cooked using a Mayan preparation. The fish is dry cooked in banana leaf with achiote, which is a Mayan spice paste with earthy slash citrus tones. Once diluted with orange juice, it is painted on the fish, wrapped in banana leaves, and placed on the grill. Essentially, it’s steamed in achiote and oranges with no fat ever touching the fish. Included beside this bundle of joy… pico de gallo, salsa habanera, chile torreado, arroz, and jicama y pepino. Pineapple sauce seals the deal, though being hot, it is balanced with the sweetness.
The fish is left inside the banana leaf to authenticate the preparation. Of course, a few lazy complainers produce a mini sniffle after actually having to build the taco themselves. Jonathan has a point, explaining… If he made the taco for you, then you would never know if he actually grilled it in the banana leaf or not. You wouldn’t have the experience of opening up this glorious gift.
The Chihuahua cheese enchiladas arrived with guajillo-ancho salsa “Roja,” and queso fresco. Don’t forget the side of beans and rice! The quality of these two items is of superior importance. Jonathan told me a secret: They used chicken stock up until a week and a half ago, but now the rice is actually… vegetarian friendly.
This chef went on to explain, “If the nuts and bolts aren’t any good, then everything else is gonna suck.” He feels the restaurant has to start with beans and rice. If a chef can’t make beans and rice in a Mexican restaurant, then the chef shouldn’t be making food at all. Amen Papa!
Just as appearances pretended all had ended, suddenly… a super fluffy breakfast quickly arrived. The menu is referred to as “Interior Mexican food with a Texas attitude.” For those who happen to heart the original El Patio, the Westheimer location hasn’t changed a bit. However, there are no guarantees.
The need for reinventing the pip in El Patio’s step is evident. From the servers to the kitchen to the décor, it’s a work in progress heading in all the right directions. Chef Jonathan Jones is respected by the most critical of all critical chefness in Houston. The updated menu is inventive indeed, with his twist turning the table in a much needed new direction.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch