Just a few notes about the great meal at Rudy's Taste last night.
First up, the tamales. I was introduced to and became an immediate fan of the Guatemalan tamale. Wrapped in a banana leaf, the cornmeal was "loose" in texture and dotted with sauce, meat and a large olive (that Hammond declared "squishy"). Tasty overall, but what sold me was that loose-textured corn, which was closer to mush or grits and remedied my major complaint with the standard-issue tamale, namely the library paste-texture of the cornmeal. The Guatemalan tamales were followed immediately by some standard tamales, a clever exercise in juxtaposition that redoubled the convictions of my taste in tamales; not exactly "yuck," as these were well executed, but not to my taste at all. Admittedly a personal preference for which I offer no explanation or excuse; I know it puts me in the minority of tamale-tasters. As a sidebar: Much discussion was had regarding the inherent steamy-moistness of the filling of tamales, and how mysteriously, in defiance of all natural and philosophical law, nevertheless sometimes Aaron Deacon finds himself in possession of a wretched, dry-centered "tamale," typically offered by the street vendors with the coolers. "How do they do it? we asked; like the mysteries of the creation, transubstantiation, the Trinity and the rest, we had no answer so we soldiered on, stuffing our maws, smiling and snorting like contented ruminants (without the cud-chewing part, of course).
A half chicken smothered in a dark sauce (that strangely took those at our table a couple of minutes to identify as chicken, before hacking into it) was delicious, especially topped with the sauce and a squirt of juice from the enormous carved lemon on the plate. Once we got sorted out the need for serving spoons (Aaron -- are these dark splotches on my forehead normal, or should I be worried?), we were able to enjoy this tender bird properly. There were tostones served, I think, with the chicken (maybe they came out with another dish), but in any event they were garlicky and crisp and I found myself enjoying them, something I can't say for most tostones (there seems to be a theme developing here...).
Good as the chicken was (and a couple of other dishes I'll not go into), the two items I would definitely go back for were the red snapper and the steak. Whole red snapper, fried and cut into cubes with the head on and a face still caught in an expression of shock (a face only a Frenchman could adore
), this was really good eating, expecially dipped in the garlic butter sauce served on the side. Different from my other favorite snapper (at Dorado), this is a simpler preparation, but pure pleasure in the taste of the fish meat itself. The carne asada was also first rate, and a different preparation from my experience -- as others noted, there was a strong flavor of mint in the seasoning, or at least that's what we were tasting. Very tender, extremely flavorful ... as good a carne asada as I've had anywhere.
Dessert was a flan that I found unappealing primarily because it was actually a fairly good representation of the type -- i.e., I don't like "real" flan because of its gelatinous and dry texture (but I love the near cheese-cake custard served at Dorado, for example). Probably just my oral fixation problems acting up again; others seemed to love Rudy's flan.
Thanks, MikeG, for putting this together. As a final note, in addition to the great food, accomodating service and aristocratic company, dinner at Rudy's Taste provided an evening of mystery and miraculous occurrences. While I am sure this is never to be repeated, and you should not go to Rudy's expecting it to happen to you, I feel I should record pdaane's "miracle of BYOB loaves and fishes" -- i.e., leaving with a cooler containing twice as much beer as when he arrived. How did he do it? I have no answer, but there is a lesson in the miracle: I need to spend more time with pdaane.