But on this occasion, with Elizabeth's sister and brother-in-law, we had an actual mission. You may recall, last summer, that Elizabeth and I attended their wedding in New York and brought with us the cake-toppers we had purchased on Olvera Street, which all of the guests loved. Dawn and Brian used them in a diorama, and they were hoping to find one of a cat as well. So we headed down to Olvera Street and it did not take long for them to find what they were looking for. We turned our attention to lunch.
I have eaten at El Paseo many times, but never at La Golondrina across the street. So we decided to try it.
And the salsa was boring - pretty much a flavorless mess of tomatoes and juices, with a small amount of onion mixed in.
I post a photo of her on my blog back in 2009, which I did.
"So you want me to take a picture of you?" I asked.
She thought about it for a moment. "Well, no, maybe just an action shot of me going for some salsa."
Elizabeth ordered a melon margarita and Brian selected a Cadillac margarita, probably because it was the one with the most booze, I suspect.
"Oh man," he said. "It's the best. It's the best you will ever have."
I admired his enthusiasm, if not exactly his honesty. I ordered a chicken enchilada with mole sauce.
When it arrived I winced: the mole looked like it had been painted on and had the consistency of the slime that comes in those little plastic balls from vending machines.
Fortunately, it tasted much better than it looked. While far from being the best mole I have ever had - it's not even the best I have had this month - it was neither too sweet nor too much like cheap chocolate, my main complaints with most mole I try. This had a noticeable but not overwhelming dark chocolate taste and a bit of a spice.
The waiter came back after a few minutes.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"It's very good, but it's not the best I have ever had."
"Oh come on! What is better than this?"
"Do you know La Cabañita in Glendale?" I answered. "That's my favorite mole I have ever had."
He paused for a moment, seemingly thinking it over.
"Yeah, okay," he said. "That's better. But this is pretty good."
"Yes it is," I agreed.
I did not have any problem with La Golondrina. But I like El Paseo Inn more. (And, to be honest, I could probably name 50 Mexican restaurants in the Los Angeles area that I like more than both of them.) This meal at La Golondrina was more expensive than any I have eaten at El Paseo, and the latter has always been a notch or two tastier than this meal.
While I would have no problem returning here, if it's up to me I will always choose El Paseo from now on - if for no other reason than that their chips and salsa are much better.