Every so often, there’s a plate of food that you can’t stop eating. You can’t figure out what that flavor is that makes you think of home — the salt, sugar and fat are balanced to an addictive level, or maybe it’s just the dish you’ve been craving.
If you find yourself experiencing that at El Bolero’s new location in East Dallas, you’ve either entered another dimension or you've starved yourself for days to the point of making anything edible satisfactory.
Like its original Design District location, the restaurant claims to be “an authentic, regional Mexican concept that draws the inspiration for its food and beverage menu from the diverse regions of Mexico," according to its website.
Chilaquiles ($13), gorditas ($12) and tacos con chorizo ($11) fit that category. An egg-white frittata ($12), crab cake eggs benedict ($16) and avocado toast ($12) appear to veer toward the classic American brunch dish.
These chilaquiles won't impress any fans of the dish.
There’s no reason that something must be 100 percent authentic for it to be good. The hope is that someone enters a restaurant, feels comfortable with the staff and experiences food that makes them feel full and happy. For brunch, a good bloody mary or reasonably priced mimosa helps.
The interior design of El Bolero in East Dallas is quite pleasant — clean lines and bright colors are a perfect setting. The staff is friendly and attentive. That bloody mary is good enough, too.
The best item on a recent visit was the queso blanco ($11). Chihuahua, Monterey and Oaxaca cheeses are melted down with just a few chops of jalapeño, cilantro and red onion. It would’ve been perfect if it had been lukewarm.
The chilaquiles — which frequent enough brunch menus to be considered a reliable gauge of a kitchen — come with verdes or rojas sauce. It’s not the most beautiful, nor the most flavorful, but it’s OK. It’s a pile of roasted chicken that needs more seasoning, covered in your salsa choice, crema and an egg.
The gorditas come with Oaxaca cheese, chorizo, potatoes, cabbage, red onion, radish, cilantro, crema fresca, cotija and salsa fresca. They’re little pockets of meat that will dry out your mouth with each bite.
The barbacoa hash comes out beautifully but needs some extra seasoning, some care of that barbacoa to prevent dryness and some extra cooking of the potatoes to make this a real hash.
The barbacoa hash ($14) sounds perfect, with the meat among bacon, eggs, peppers, Oaxaca cheese, potato, pico de gallo, crema fresca and scallions. It’s also a beautifully plated dish. And it’s one of those plates that you think, “Maybe it will get better” with every bite.
The base is a layer of undercooked shredded potatoes, topped with a layer of cheese (which almost saves the dish, as only a plethora of cheese can do) followed by the rest of the ingredients. Don’t attempt to try that barbacoa on its own — the dryness will make you lament the destruction to what should be a well-respected meat.
There’s a churro French toast ($14) on the menu, an item that we know is doable since Vidorra over in Deep Ellum produces it well. The people at El Bolero should try it. Or maybe they should try IHOP for regular French toast, since this plate of bread didn’t even qualify.
The powdered sugar-dusted triangles of bread don’t seem to have any connection to churros. The description lists it as brioche, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla mascarpone. It’s possible the cinnamon/sugar is supposed to play that role, but if so, it’s a weak attempt. The bread seemed to have been quickly drenched in an egg batter before being griddled. The whole slice came out very doughy and eggy, somehow achieving a dark outside with what felt like a raw interior.
This plate of alleged French toast was the worst we’ve ever tried. There’s a lot of work to be done here, not even including the dated presentation.
Maybe there are other things at El Bolero’s brunch worth trying, such as that egg white frittata. Or the avocado toast. There’s also a fruit bowl ($7) that’s probably OK.
El Bolero has to be doing something right, based on its other meals. It’s possible it’s just not taking enough care with brunch, or a menu has been designed that isn’t executed properly.
The East Dallas location is in a good spot, with a beautiful interior and a lovely, spacious patio. It should be serving a brunch Dallas can enjoy, but it needs some more attention and thought. Or, it could just not serve brunch.
El Bolero, 2722 N. Fitzhugh Ave. (East Dallas). Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.