Monday, April 25, 2011

El Olvido Denver: Spurring Memories

You can't imagine the emotions that we experienced when we found out that carne en su jugo was going to appear on a menu in Denver. Back in March Westword wrote that Jorge Pingarron was opening a restaurant called El Olvido on South Broadway that would feature that legendary dish; they couldn't open fast enough for us.

What's it all about? If you've been to Guadalajara, you can't miss Karne Garibaldi, a legendary eatery that's grown into a thriving business. They built their reputation on one dish and only one dish: Carne en su jugo, literaly meat in its juice or broth. According to their story, in the late 70's they "cooked-up" this recipe of thin sliced beef cooked in a richly seasoned broth and brought it to Guadalajara.

My trips to GDL have never been complete until I stepped into Karne Garibaldi for a plate of the red stuff. Here's what the spread looked like the last time I was there:

First thing to know: This place has a Guinness World Record for fastest service. As soon as your butt hits the chair, you are served a plate with refried beans, tortillas, grilled onions and chips and red salsa. You are asked one question: "large or small" and officially within 13 seconds you have a plate of carne en su jugo in front of you along with limes, radishes, cilantro, and chopped onion. A mug of horchata rounds out the deal.

Flavor? Incredible! A very rich and thick broth, just a touch of spice, lots of bacony goodness. Yes it's a bit salty with some cumin, garlic, and lime flavors. The meat is extremely tender and thinly sliced. There are bits of bacon and beans in the broth as well. You add a shot of lime, some cilantro and onion then go at it! Spoon or tortilla? The tortilla has to be the way to go, it is SO messy (the tortillas are warmed on a griddle with some oil) but it all sops-up that broth that you came all this way for. This place is known for their mixed quesadillas, these are good accompaniments; but completely unnecessary in my book.

So, El Olvido. What can we say? I was so excited I didn't take any pictures! Argh! There was no question as to what we were ordering, I was shocked were even given a menu. (Check out the menu here if you must)

Pero, a lo que venimos, no? Our waiter, good soldier that he is, assured us that this was going to be better than Garibaldi. We were just hoping to recognize the dish as carne en su jugo! It's clear that Jorge and his crew know what they are shooting for; you literally could take my picture and imagine what you are going to get at El Olvido, right down to the barro plates. The refried beans with corn that you get with your chips is right on. Believe me, this is important; in Guadalajara they've started canning Garibaldi's beans and selling them from their restaurants to take home. Yes, yes, how's the carne? I must say it is really very good. Sliced the right way, cooked with bacon and beans, they're doing everything right. Better than Garibaldi? Not yet. The beef isn't as tender and the broth isn't as rich. What is it? Just more time to refine their cooking/seasoning and muddy-up that broth, I'd say. In fact, the longer you linger at your plate, the better that broth at the bottom gets. They had been only open two days and were already serving up something amazing.

The folks behind El Olvido have done a nice job putting this place together. It has a very classy feel with a lively bar when we were there on a Friday night. They have Negra de barril (draft) as well as anything else you might want from a full bar. I associate carne with a much more casual environment, but once I start getting messy in a plate of comfort, I don't really care where I am!

El olvido is a term that is hard to translate precisely. Some define it as "oblivion"; but it often has to do with drinking to forget the bitterness of life. Don't worry (or don't get too excited, if that's what you're looking for) El Olvido isn't that kind of cantina. But if you have nostalgia for Guadalajara and it's food, this is your place; eating at El Olvido, I did forget for just a moment that I was in Denver. Until we make it back to Guada, this is going to be our go-to place for some great tapatio cooking.

Updated 5/5/11:
( Second Visit Review Here )