Go Now: Chile Rellenos at El Chingon

March 13 2014, 10:30 AM

Among chile relleno lovers, a debate rages: soft or crispy? In Mexico, charred and peeled poblano, Anaheim, or ancho chiles are stuffed with picadillo, a good melting cheese, or even (according to Diana Kennedy in the Essential Cuisines of Mexico) corn or zucchini. Such classic preparations are rolled in a fluffy egg batter that emerges from the fryer soft. Crispy rellenos, on the other hand, are a thing of New Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisines. They are made with a batter that consists only of egg whites or (gasp) north-of-the-border inventions such as wonton or tortilla wrappers.

At the new location of family-owned El Chingon on north Tennyson Street, diners at this neighborhood eatery get a welcome taste of both textures. Chef David Lopez stuffs one Anaheim with seasoned ground beef and another with Oaxaca cheese, the way his 75-year-old grandmother has made the special-occasion meal for more than 50 years. The batter is thin and pleasantly crispy (as in, straight from the fryer, not in a carnival-corn-dog kind of way). What’s more, as the entrée is placed in front of guests, a server pours a consommé-like broth made of tomatoes, white onion, and garlic into the entrée’s shallow bowl. This is a traditional Mexican accompaniment that makes the underside of each of Lopez’s chiles pleasantly soft. In addition to the welcome drama of that tableside pour, the result is a textural showstopper with a crisp bite from the top of the chile and a tender one from its underbelly.

Pairing: Some say chile rellenos are the very best entrée to gauge the quality of a Mexican restaurant. Others argue it’s the margarita. Why not try both? At El Chingon, the house margarita is made with Fortaleza Blanco tequila, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lime. If you suck them down as quickly as I did, you’ll need one for the beef stuffed chile and another for the cheese stuffed one.

4326 Tennyson St., 303-248-3641

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