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Wed, Jan. 29

Foodie Review: El Gato Azul - off the beaten (plaza) path

Just a short block and a half off of the courthouse plaza lies a Prescott icon of a restaurant. El Gato Azul, 316 W. Goodwin St., is a place to go for a truly eclectic dining experience.

With a Spanish flavor, El Gato takes its menu to a new level. Start off with one of their tapas. Tapa is defined in Spain as an appetizer or snack. El Gato serves 53 different tapas leaving any diner with a dizzying array of choices priced from $5 to $13. We tried several starting with the Black Bean Cakes. The bean cakes themselves are crispy on the outside and dense and flavorful inside, served with chips and covered with a red pepper aioli. Delicious.

The Sticky Chicken we tried is grilled with skewers and tossed in a hoisin sesame sauce and served on a bed of spinach with tortilla strips.

Either of these appetizers could comprise a meal. We also sampled the escargot served with mushrooms, a sherry sauce and baguettes. The flavor was excellent; however, the sauce was a little too plentiful and made the bread a little too soggy.

Next came posole, a soup made with hominy, a dish that originated in Mexico and South America. In addition to the hominy there was chicken, ham, red and green chiles, red onions and cilantro. It was delightfully spicy with layers of flavor served with home-made tortilla chips on the side.

In addition to all those tapas there are 12 entrees on the menu and a couple of house specials for the evening. Entrees are priced from $14.95 to $19.95 and come with a salad of seasonal greens and red onion. A subtle Balsamic vinaigrette dressing sets it off nicely. Paella was our entrée choice. Originating in Spain, paella is basically a rice dish. The other ingredients will vary depending on which geographic region you are in. Ours, in addition to saffron rice, had house-made chorizo, mussels, chicken, green olives, peas, garlic and shrimp with white wine. A very flavorful and filling dish.

However, we did save room for dessert, the Double Chocolate Ganache. If you like chocolate, you must try it.

El Gato has a very nice wine list with choices per glass or by the bottle. Glasses range from $6 to $13 and bottle prices are $26 to $65. There are 18 beers to choose from both on tap and in the bottle. A number of specialty margaritas also appear on the drinks menu. Soft drinks, coffee and tea are also available.

Vegetarian items abound and everything is made to order. Their lunch menu has numerous salads and sandwiches from $8.50 to $11.95.

The restaurant was full when we were there but the service was good and our server took our order of seven separate items and wrote nothing down, made no mistakes and we never felt rushed. If you go on a weekend, do make a reservation. El Gato is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and I highly recommend you give it a try.

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