El Meson — June 17, 2010

21 06 2010
El Meson
3450 South Lyndale Avenue

Settled on the corner of Lyndale and 35th Street, El Meson brings some Spanish flavor to south Minneapolis. The menu is clearly where it earns its reputation. Inside, it’s nothing more than a typical Mexican joint – colorful walls in a dim dining room lined with booths and scattered with large tables – so we kept our outdoor reservation, even as the wind picked up and the rain began to fall, to sit underneath the awning and enjoy summer’s fresh air under twinkling patio lights.      

Poblano perfection -- a great way to start


To start, we ordered a carafe of sangria (a perfect summer patio pick, with its chunks of fresh fruit) and the Picante Poblano to share. The poblano sat in a spicy red pepper sauce perfectly paired with its filling: braised red potatoes, grilled red onion, chopped shrimp and additional roasted red peppers all rolled together and stuffed tightly inside. The combination was delightful, with an enjoyable amount of heat.        

Jim’s Carne Frita con Mofongo was almost more fun to say than it was to finish. Bits of sautéed pork tenderloin and onion circled a mound of smashed plantains – an adequate starch without an overpowering banana taste that gave the dish some weight – with a savory sauce that carried a hint of red wine. Not short on flavor, the dish was amusing but incredibly salty. Luckily, we had that carafe of sangria to wash it down.

Arroz con Mariscos in front, Carne Frita con Mofongo in back


As for the Arroz con Mariscos, I’d order it again without thinking twice. Almost like a mini-paella (the larger seafood dish that runs between $35-75 in most restaurants, including El Meson), the large bowl mixed sautéed shrimp, crabmeat, calamari, mussels and a variety of fish with yellow rice. A good amount of additional vegetables – especially the juicy chunks of tomatoes and grilled red peppers – were a pleasant surprise that contributed to the overall flavor and variety of complementary consistencies.        

The photos on El Meson’s website portray an ambiance much more sophisticated than it was – unexpected, but easily forgiven. And though the patio was nothing special, it was nice to have the option to sit outside. But the service was painfully slow. We waited patiently to place our order and sat even longer to get the bill. Finally, we trekked inside and stood at the cash register to signal our waiter that dinner was officially over.        

In all, we could argue that the food made the trip worthwhile – save for the Mofongo. The sangria was sweet and deep, the appetizer was creatively and expertly prepared, and the mini paella was too good to stop eating until the bowl was empty. If only we’d had room for flan…        

RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠♠
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠
Service: ♠♠
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠1/2

Total bill, including tip: $73        

El Meson on Urbanspoon       




One response

24 07 2010
Luci Ancora – July 17, 2010 « Tasting the Twin Cities

[…] expecting much more will set you up for disappointment.  If you’ve read our review of El Meson (check me out), it would be accurate to say this was the Italian version of El Meson – well regarded by many, […]

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