Our meal began with a trio of salsas. The first was a standard proprietary blend of red tomatoes, onion, and jalapeño. Although this was a rather routine recipe, we found it to be the most appealing. The next salsa was a spicy green blend heavy with blended jalapeño. The salsa was certainly on the spicy side but fell a little flat in the flavor department, the taste of the peppers overwhelming any other ingredients. Most at our table completely avoided this one. Lastly, we were presented with a warm, stewed blend of tomato and green chilies. This had a hint of sweetness and was a nice change of pace from the other two cold salsas. The chips were thin and crispy with a light coat of oil, in all making the complimentary beginning to this meal a favorable start.
The carne guisada was the most successful dish of the night. Guisadas are stewed meats, typically served swimming in a rich, flavorful, aromatic sauce. La Casa Real's version took bits of serloin, cut into strips and served them in a spicy, peppery blend of green chilies, onions, black peppercorns, and garlic. The sauce was rather tasty but the beef was slightly overcooked and chewy. Still, the dish was woven with interesting flavors, I would not hesitate to eat this one again. We sampled two varieties of deep-fried chimichanga, one filled with ground beef and the other with shredded chicken. While the beef was enjoyable, the chicken was oddly sweet and unappetizing to most in our party. The most grievous aspect of the dish was the thick, goopy layer of Velveeta cheese slopped across the entire surface of the fried chimi which formed an unappealing film across the top of the dish within minutes. We all wished they had held off on the gobs of processed cheese in favor of more sour cream or guacamole. Our chicken enchiladas suffered from the same misgivings I presented above, funky sweetened chicken and sup-par tortillas.
With a menu as large as La Casa Real's, it's reasonable to expect that there are at least a few exceptional dishes, but unfortunately we did not find them. This is not to say the meal was an utter waste of stomach space, but with such a plethora of solid Mexican food in central Arkansas, I don't expect I'll be heading back anytime soon. With a few tweaks and a bit more TLC, La Casa Real may one day break free from its mold of mediocrity. But for now, I'm afraid it falls alongside countless other well-meaning Mexican establishments sloshing through the doldrums of run-of-the-mill restaurants.
La Casa Real
11121 N. Rodney Parham Rd.
@Kevin...unfortunately the poutine is gone. But the Salmon Gravlax Tartare is a worthy replacement.
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