We celebrated a friend’s birthday by taking her out to a Salvadoran restaurant. El Comal has been in Bellevue for several years running now, having moved once from its location set back in a strip mall on the eastern edge of Crossroads Shopping area to one in the same mall but closer to 106th Ave NE. Salvadoran restaurants are not too common in the greater Seattle area, though there are several, including Salvadorean Bakery in an area of town known as White Center. It turns out that El Comal is owned by the same two sisters who started the bakery in 1996.
As an aside, there seems to be some confusion about whether to use the term Salvadoran or Salvadorean. Though the restaurant uses the latter, other natives use the former.
The menu has an intriguing list of entrees. Though names of many items seem straight out of a Mexican menu, our waiter informed us that the only item not Salvadorean in preparation was the Wild Hot Wings.
Four of us shared three dishes: Pollo Guisado, Camarones Guanacos and (on the waiter’s recommendation) Carne Adobada.
Somewhat puzzling to us was the Pollo Guisado (☆☆). The chicken thigh pieces were dry and stringy in a stew of vegetables (carrots, green beans and potatoes) in an unremarkable tomato broth, ochre-colored from achiote. The chicken likely got dried out from overcooking. The side of rice was tinged yellow with flecks of vegetables, tasty and nicely textured. Also on the side was a house salad.
The shrimp (Camarones Guanacos, ☆☆) were fine but again the entrée as a whole didn’t impress anyone much.
Lastly, the marinade made the grilled pork tenderloin (Carne Adovada, ☆☆) a sight too vinegary. Considering that the tenderest part of the pig had been marinated, again it was surprising that it wasn’t more tender than it was. This dish also had the interesting, earthy flavor of achiote. What little there was of it, a side of black refried beans was very good. As with the chicken stew, sides of rice and salad accompanied the grilled pork.
Salvadoran corn tortillas, served with our meals, are different from their Mexican cousins in that they are thicker. They also are the basis for Salvadoran pupusas in which the tortillas are stuffed with a variety of fillings. These will wait for another visit.
The dinner was concluded with two desserts. A custardy dessert in a cookie crust that had more of a pie crust texture, the Tartaleta (☆☆½) was topped with fresh kiwi, strawberries and blueberries that were dusted with grated white chocolate. The Tres Leches (☆☆☆) came with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, a very nice dessert that gave the distinct impression of a rum cake, but the fourth diner in the group held his ground by not detecting any at all. The waiter denied that any alcohol was used. The three of us chalked it up to culinary sleight-of-hand.
|El Comal – **CLOSED**
15920 NE 8th St #2
Bellevue, WA 98008