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El Faro

March 10th, 2009 · No Comments


For as long as I can remember, my Dad has swooned over El Faro. More specifically, he has had a thirty-five year love affair with El Faro’s Chicken Villarroy.

To appease his hankerings, during their forty-year marriage my Mom has agreed to eat there. On occasion. For a woman who rarely strays from the fish section of a menu (ordered with no extra salt), her ingestion of anything from El Faro’s menu could only have been driven by love.

According to my father, she would order the Mixed Seafood with Egg Sauce. While she picked out all the seafood, he would dollop the Egg Sauce onto his rice by the spoonful. Love, indeed.

When the rare opportunity arose for my Dad and I to eat alone a couple weeks ago, there was little question as to where we would be dining. After three decades, I would finally get to eat at El Faro. Despite its place in my father’s heart, I had never been.

El Faro has been in the far West Village, on Greenwich Street, since 1927. Yep, that’s 81 years. The wooden tables, rickety chairs, and fading wall mural are likely unchanged.

The Sangria is light on the fruit, and leans more acidic than sweet. At $21 a carafe, it’s hard to pass up. The wine glasses are tiny, and for the two of us, the carafe felt bottomless.

We shared some of the chewiest fried calamari I’ve ever had; pulling and tearing were required.

In contrast, the silky smooth Croquetas melted in our mouths. The secret ingredient? Béchamel. There were three types of Croquetas – cod, ham, and spinach – each individually mixed with béchamel before being breaded and fried. The result are two-bite treasures.

Béchamel is an El Faro staple. It permeates more dishes on the menu than your arteries care to know. The classic sauce of scalded milk, flour, and butter can transform any dish into decadence.

It’s no surprise that the Chicken Villarroy, my Father’s culinary love, relies heavily on this creamy magnificence. Chicken cutlets are battered in béchamel and then deep-fried. The chicken remains moist and juicy. Its golden crust is rich and crispy.

Though I can’t be sure, I’m confident that béchamel is also incorporated into Shrimp in Green Sauce. There is some spinach, to give it a luscious green color, and to fool you into thinking the thick and creamy sauce might have some nutritional value. The shrimp were plump and tender. It’s easy to hide mediocre proteins in rich sauces. El Faro pulls no such punches.

After eating at El Faro it was easy to understand my Father’s love affair and perhaps, to even start one of my own.

El Faro
823 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 929-8210

Neighborhood: West Village

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