Saturday, March 3, 2012
La Casa de Samuel
While the neighborhood that I live in is pretty Hispanic and there are some Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood. There really isn't anything of note (other than the street venders that sell tamales and elotes) within walking distance of where I live. There are some pretty good Puerto Rican and Cuban places that are close but the closest Mexican place that I might mention is about a mile and a half away. When I think about going out for Mexican food, I think about the neighborhoods of Pilsen or Little Village. To that end, I went to La Casa de Samuel in Little Village for dinner recently. Located on a busy thouroughfare, from the outside it doesn't look much different than any other business in the area. It has a glass front and a glass door but as you look in, you are transported to the western desert. The place was very rustic with wooden floors and walls, exposed rafters, a fence separating the bar area from the dining area on which were mounted a couple of saddles and a couple of deer skulls above the doorway. There was a table at the front of the restaurant near the door that was used for making tortillas and an aquarium in front of the door that stood as kind of a hostess station. My first thought after seeing the tortilla station and thinking that that was kind of cool was that the place was pretty loud. There was a music area by the fence separating the bar and the restaurants and in the time that I was there, there were several different musicians that played (loudly). It seemed that they would play two or three songs and then switch off to give someone else a chance to play. There seemed to be several musicians hanging out in the bar area.
I was lucky that I came to the restaurant hungry because I was served a lot. I started out with an order of Guacamole and chips. The avocados and tomatoes tasted good and the onions tasted very fresh and crisp. There was a pronounced cilantro flavor which is fine because I like cilantro and the chips were very fresh and crisp The guacamole while very fresh tasting, could have used some spice (peppers, cayenne, or hot sauce). If it had had some spice it would have been great but as it was, I can only call it good. I like Oysters Rockefeller and when I saw that they had them on the menu, I had to order some. I could have ordered six or twelve but as there was something else on the menu that really interested me, I decided to get the smaller size. Now admittedly ordering Oysters Rockefeller at a Mexican restaurant may not have been my smartest move because while you can get oysters in Mexico, Oysters Rockefeller is most definitely is not a Mexican dish. Having said that, while they weren't bad, they also weren't great. Oysters Rockefeller consist of oysters on the half shell cooked with a green , usually parsley or spinach, a butter sauce, and topped with bread crumbs. My oysters had spinach, butter, and bread crumbs, but they also were topped with a lot of white cheese. They were pretty good if a bit wetter than I prefer and probably not technically Oysters Rockefeller.
As I mentioned, there was something on the menu that really piqued my interest. That would be the rattlesnake. I think that I have had grilled rattlesnake before but I don't really remember what it tasted like except the often referred to chicken. I could get it served just with salsa verde, salsa roja, mole, or simply grilled but I was also warned that if I ordered the rattlesnake grilled, it might be a little tough and ordering it with a sauce would probably help to tenderize it. After thinking about it, I thought that the salsa verde would match best with the white meat that is rattlesnake and would do so without really covering up the flavor of the meat so that is the way that I went. The entree was served with rice, beans, a side salad, and the house made corn tortillas which were soft and wonderful. Rattlesnake has a light flavor, kind of like chicken, and the salsa verde did provide some nice flavor and spice to the dish. I used the tortillas to build tacos with the rattlesnake, rice, and beans and to mop up the sauce when everything else was finished. It was a very good dish even if the rattlesnake was still a little tough.
I could have finished there and probably should have because I was starting to get full but I had the dessert menu there so I ordered the Fried Ice Cream. The ice cream was Neapolitan and the crust had cinnamon in it. It was also topped with sprinkles and chocolate syrup and served with whipped cream. While I generally prefer my fried ice cream topped with honey, chocolate syrup is good and the dish as a whole was good, sweet, smooth, crisp, and a little spicy from the cinnamon.
I liked my dinner here and I will come back even if it was a little on the loud side. The service was friendly, the tortillas were outstanding, and the menu was extensive. There are a few other things on the menu that I would like to try.