Birthday Dinner

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Saturday, my hubby and I drove to LA to see our good friend, 'Pico' and his wife, "Orchid". It was Pico's birthday and they had made reservations for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Velvet Margarita. The restaurant had a very cool, edgy, and fun atmosphere. It kind of reminded me a little of El Dia del Muertos since there were flames and skulls along the bar. Their friend, "Lily" had joined us for dinner.

The walls were covered in either red or blue velvet (naturally) depending on what side of the restaurant you were sitting at. On the ceiling at the entrance, there were dozens of black sombrero hats acting as tiles. There were a couple chandeliers and giant TV screens with old movies playing.

I had reviewed the menu a couple nights before. I was surprised and delighted to see one of my favorite dishes, chicken mole. As for appetizers, I have been known to order my go-to, fried calamari. But when I saw ahi tuna ceviche, I knew I had to try it. There's something so fantastic and refreshing about ahi tuna that I adore. Orchid makes an excellent ceviche with imitation crab so I was curious to try ceviche with fish.

The drink selection sounded fabulous. I enjoy margaritas but I saw a drink called Royal Velvet which was served in a pineapple. How fun is that? I didn't bring a camera otherwise I would have taken a picture of the Royal Velvet drink. Lauderdale ordered the same drink.

The restaurant served these beautiful red tortilla chips with a bean dip and 2 different salsas, one mild and one medium-hot. I'm not sure what it is about the chips but these were addicting. The mild salsa was my favorite as I'm very sensitive to spicy foods.

All dinner entrees offered a salad or soup. I chose the House salad which consisted of mixed greens and an orange vinaigrette dressing. Lauderdale got the Caesar salad, which is another one of my 'go-to's'. The soups, Tequila Shrimp Bisque, and Turkey Vegetable Aldondigas, both sounded good but I had to save some room for dinner (and dessert).

The ceviche was excellent with the ahi tuna being neatly cubed. The problem with many ceviche recipes is that they often include a jalapeno pepper in it. I could instantly tell there was jalapeno, hopefully sans seeds. My hubby likes heat. He didn't even notice the jalapeno. I definitely was reaching for my water in between bites. Overall, it was tasty but if we get to go there again, I'll stick with the fried calamari.

Now, the chicken mole was fantastic. I'm sure that it was mole poblano, if you want to get technical. For those of you who aren't familiar with mole poblano, it's a thick, rich sauce with hints of chocolate. It's a very time consuming and labor intensive sauce to make. Definitely not for beginners. Some friends of mine have told talked me out of wanting to make mole from scratch. I understand it can take several hours or even days and many, many ingredients to make a good mole. The mole was served with red rice and beans. The red rice was light, moist, fluffy and made a great foil for the spiced mole. I'm not a huge fan of beans but I tried a couple bites. They had a light sprinkling of thinly sliced scallions or green onions on top. I thought that was a creative touch.

The ladies wanted dessert. At this point, I was wondering if I could manage a couple bites. We decided to get the apple empanadas a la mode. I'm a big fan of empanadas, having had them with my Filipino-Chinese relatives. Empanadas are similar to turnovers, made with dough and then stuffed with either a sweet or savory filling. Although they are usually served as appetizers, they can be eaten anytime or on the go. The apple empanadas reminded me of the apple pies they have at McDonald's only these were much better.

We had a great time. Looking forward to our next visit.

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