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El Paragua, Española, NM

There are restaurants, and there are institutions, and then there are institutions where you can get great food. El Paragua, in Española, NM, on NM76 just east of its intersection with US 84-285, is one of the latter.

This place has been around for decades; the back of the menu has rave reviews dating back to the 1960s. I've never been here before, but several people have suggested it to me.

My companion had the chile rellenos. This is one of the classic dishes that everybody around here does. Whole green chiles in the 4" size class are stuffed with cheese, and deep fried in a beer batter. A lot of places make the coating too heavy or greasy, but this was nice and light and crunchy.

My entree was the `camarrones borrachos', or drunken shrimp. Huge Baja prawns, maybe five inches long, were fried in a beer batter and served with the classic cocktail sauce and also a really terrific peach dipping sauce which I thought suited it perfectly.

We worked on an assortment of side orders and the usual chips and salsa appetizer and they were all great. The salsa is the style they call pico de gallo (literally, pecked by a chicken), which consists of fresh Jalapeños, tomatillos, and onion all chopped fine. It was very good and more than a little spicy. The chips were fine, warm, crispy corn chips.

There was a plate with refried beans and carne adovada (boneless roast pork marinated in red chile). Both were quite good. My companion's discriminating palate picked out a rosemary flavor in the carne adovada, but it was subtle and did good things for the flavor. I think the carne adovada at Rancho de Chimayó has the edge because they use some of the best red chile in the world on a sizeable, solid chunk of pork tenderloin, but El Paragua's was quite lean and had a fine red chile flavor. There was a dish of posole (rehydrated lye-treated dried white corn kernels) with some more very lean and tender pork in it. The Spanish rice was nicely garlicky.

Rancho de Chimayó definite stays in the #1 position in my World List of New Mexican Restaurants, but El Paragua is solidly on the list on the strength of one visit. Nice rooms and nice folks at both places, too.

Next: Blue Springs Mountain Cafe, near Mountainair
See also: Shipman's favorite New Mexico restaurants
Previous: Rancho de Chimayó, Chimayó, NM
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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2001/04/08 22:17:20