Last Wednesday I had a business dinner here at El Portal. While we were concerned at first for the lack of people being seen through the windows of the restaurant we were pleased once we started getting food to our table.
The former bartender of El Gaucho, Joe Valencia, started this dining venture about 11 months ago in a location that hadn't been great for any of its former tenants. I hope that this time El Portal will be able to get past the locale to draw in visitors because the food is worth it. Joe happened to be there the night of my dining experience and if you've ever seen Joe from his years at EG you'll be barely able to recognize him. He looks great but gone are the clean cut styles and he's a bit more bohemian - which frankly I liked.
In his own restaurant he's been able to relax and enjoy life a little more. My dinner guest is a former chef and we both enjoyed our meals and we were given a good wine recommendation that wasn't high budget. My meal was the nightly special of a pork tamale - it was wonderful and really hit the spot for me that night. My friend had the daily halibut with a wonderful green sauce that really got the taste buds moving. Prior to our entrees we had shared the tuna tartare El Portal style. Having been a fan of a similar dish at EG I was very pleased to have a good experience with the version at EP - although some people might need to get used to the green color because of the mix of ingredients included in this version.
I've heard great things about the table side guacamole so I'll definitely go back. Be sure to try this place out because if they don't get business they'll fold. The restaurant business is tricky and if a good thing comes to town you should "feed" it so it stays around!
Good luck, Joe, you're doing a great job!