Friday, June 22, 2012

La Marginal: Home Cooked Puerto Rican

Last week we went out for Puerto Rican cuisine. I like it and Val has never had it so we ended up going to La Marginal for early dinner.

La Marginal
2447 Nacogdoches Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78217
Tel: (210) 804-2242
Mon-Wed 10am-9pm,  Thu-Fri  10am-1a.m, Sun 10am-6pm
4.5/5 stars.

He Said:
   This restaurant meets one of my requirements to be called a hole in the wall. It was kind of hard to find at first and is fairly small. But, this is a good thing. No crowds to fight and usually great food. Parking is tight but sufficient. We were seated fairly quickly after entering but it took awhile to get menus and drinks. I was going to call this "the review that almost didn't happen" because it took them so long to get to us. But, once Alanso saw we weren't being served he was very "on point" to make sure we were taken care of.

Plantano Loco
   The Decor: Interesting 3-d art on the walls makes the dining area feel open through the clever use of forced perspective and proportions in the murals. Almost could feel like you were dining open air on a quaint city street. There was music playing, but just loud enough to be pleasant and didn't intrude into conversation or trying to understand our server. Plenty of examples of cultural art to make it feel very festive without being hectic.

   The Service: Like I said, we almost left except our server, Alonso, saved the day by reading our body language across the restaurant. After he became engaged the service was top-notch. I'll ask for him our next trip. He is a young soft spoken man that knows the menu and cuisine like a pro and answered all of Val's questions concisely and showed no signs of frustration at all. The menu has very clear pictures of the different dishes to ease selection.

   The Food: After running through the menu with Alonso, I decided to get the Plantano Loco. It is a sandwich made of toasted plaintain slices around smoked ham, roasted pork, with a light touch of mayo and white cheese. This was served with yellow rice and crispy plantain fritters on the side. I got tea to go with.

The tea was strong without being bitter. A simple squeeze of lemon and it was good to go.
I started of with the yellow rice which had pigeon peas and little bits of pork mixed in with it. It was served compressed into a low cylinder shape that easily fell apart with my fork. The rice was moist and firm without being remotely hard or soggy, it was "right in the groove". The spices and peas balanced this out to a wonderful savory goodness.

The plantain fritters were crisp and warm without being oily/greasy. The actual sandwich was awesome! The roasted pork had a caramelized, crispy skin and moist, tender, fall-apart meat. The ham was lightly smoked and firm without being tough. A light touch of mayo and white cheese really rounded this out.  Did I mention there were 2 of them in my order?

Val got a cross sampling of the menu and shared. I tried the fried Yucca which was crunchy and light and was completely incredible with their in-house made garlic sauce.
The hot sauce which came to the table was a great balance of spicy chilies, garlic, and other spices I didn't take the time to zero in on, they were in such a good balance.

Coconut Flan is the best.
The time for dessert came. They have several types of flan and other goodies. I got the coconut flan while Val got the flan sampler. My flan was firm, yet somehow light and filled with custardie goodness topped with a toasted coconut "crust" and drizzled with caramel with a flourish of chocolate sauce on the plate.

 Summary: I'm more than willing to put this place in our regular rotation and work my way through the menu. Everything was flavourful and more than yummy. I'd give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars due to the wait and that it was a little warm inside. I'll say on that front though that it appeared they were having A/C issues.

She said:

First Woohoo to Thomas for starting his first post!  He is getting more comfortable with the Blogspot format and posting on his own more so let's encourage him :)

So I had never tried Puerto Rican food before, and I am a super picky eater and nervous about food that I know nothing about.  It gets more dicey when you wander into cultures with menus that involve words in languages you don't speak.

The atmosphere was charming.  The little houses they designed on the wall made the place feel cozy and charming and you could forget you were in a small restaurant in a strip mall.

After the long wait to get menus and drinks, I was really frustrated, but our waiter was considerate and conscientious.  He took the time to explain everything on the menu and seemed to enjoy my enthusiasm for trying some of the dishes.  I ordered a wide variety of items and shared them with Thomas and Goggles. 

El Bohio with crispy plantains
I asked him what he thought I should order and he recommended El Bohio ($10.99) "Tender marinated chunk pork with fresh garlic, pineapple and tropical spices, fried to golden brown garnish with red peppers and onions." Normally the peppers and onions would throw me off, but this dish was AMAZING.  The pork was crispy and well seasoned. If that was the only thing on the plate I would have been happy. 

I got the salad and the sweet plantains which were very tasty, but softer than the crispy green plantains.  The pork itself was to DIE for.  I normally don't gush but I haven't been this enthusiastic for a new ethnic cuisine since I spent a summer in Japan. I was not, however fond of the yellow rice with peas in it. Next time I will get the white rice. Goggles loved the rice, and got the same dish I did with the crispy plantains instead of the sweet. 

For some reason my normal skittishness towards something new was replaced with an avid curiosity that had me ordering a little of everything.  I ordered a Guava and cheese empenadilla (I thought it would be chopped fruit and cream cheese, instead it was all blended together and the flavor blew my mind - sweet and savory all at once)  Then I got an order of fried yucca.  It was interesting, kind of like mild potatoes and it was served with a very tasty savory garlic sauce that made me want to lick the plate.  I felt like a little kid taking delight in the simplest things. 

For dessert I ordered a combination of three different flan.  There was vanilla, Coconut, and coconut milk.  The flan was good, thick and creamy and filling without being heavy.  The coconut milk flan was not as much to my taste.  The texture was too soft with bits of shredded coconut in it, and something about the flavor did not sit well with me.  The rest of the table agreed.  The vanilla was lovely and simple, I liked it quite a bit.  Hands down though, everyone liked the coconut flan, which was basically the vanilla flan with a layer of toasted coconut on top. 

Overall this is a place I would be happy returning to, and they have brunch buffets that sound like just the thing for a nice weekend afternoon.

The service is good, I will chalk up us waiting to an error given how enjoyable the service was once the waiter came by, and he was very attentive the rest of the meal. The food is incredible, and reasonably priced for what you get. The flavors are unlike any of the other hispanic food I have ever tried.  If you have not tried Puerto Rican food you are missing out!

La Marginal on Urbanspoon

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