El Rey Mexican Cuisine
5550 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 200, Granite Bay, 916-772-5858, elreymexicancuisine.com
Granite Bay is rapidly gaining a reputation as a favorite destination for Mexican food, thanks to the addition of El Rey. In an enclave that’s already enjoying some quality South-of-the-Border fare, El Rey has thrown its sombrero into the ring and proven it’s a contender for the crown of best Mexican food. Local restaurateurs Lucy and Federico Hurtado opened the eatery in Quarry Ponds Town Center last fall, and the reviews have been stellar.
To start, our server brought out chips and three homemade salsas: mild red, flaming red, and holy-mole-that’s-hot jalapeño green. Their refreshing ceviche appetizer—served tostada-style with shrimp, cucumbers, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes in a citrus marinade—was the perfect shareable with three to a serving.
Next up was one of my favorites: pollo en mole. El Rey’s “secret recipe” boasts over 30 ingredients of which I have no doubt, after torturing my kitchen several times over several days attempting to create my own edition. Their version, which comes from Puebla, Mexico, was rich, dark, and smooth with smoky, nutty, and sweet overtones. Served over boneless chicken thighs with Spanish rice, it’s one of their most popular entrées.
Mi palabra molcajete—the menacing cauldron of stone and fire—filled with delicias picantes of house-made chorizo, arrachera (steak), chicken, nopales (cactus), veggies, queso fresco, and “Mama’s secret salsa” was another winner from their “Sizzling Plates” portion of the menu. If you’ve never tried molcajete, take a ride on the wild side. You can order it mild or hot, and it’s definitely enough to share with the accompanying tortillas, rice, and beans. More than just the meat and veg though was the tantalizing, multi-layered broth.
To flan or not to flan, especially when all of the scratch-made desserts are beckoning? When in doubt, I flan, and then I have a dining compadre order the pastel del mango (mango cake) or the bunuelos (fried dough with cinnamon, sugar, and ice cream). The flan, that ubiquitous Mexican combination of custard and caramel that people seem to love or loathe (count me in the “love it” camp), featured what I surmise was a hint of orange liqueur.
El Rey’s dishes are artistically plated, the atmosphere is vibrant yet charming, and the staff is helpful and friendly. Stop in and give them a try.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
Try This: Shrimp Ceviche, Pozole, Flautas, El Chile Relleno, Mexican Lasagna, Mi Palabra Molcajete, Pollo en Mole, Tacos de Cochinita Pibil, Vegan Bowl, Pescado en Crema Verde, Mango-Jalapeño Margarita, Flan
Drinks: Beer, wine, & cocktails (made with agave-infused sake)
Heads-Up: Outdoor dining; vegetarian & vegan options; kids’ menu; lunch specials; available for private events; Happy Hour from 3-5 p.m.; “Taco Tuesday” specials
By Lorn Randall
photos by Menka Belgal