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El Palacio, one of many indistinguishingly named Mexican restaurants in Kingman, doesn't get a lot of love on Yelp. I mean, they have about 3.5 stars, but by Yelp terms that is a rousing "meh." I have passed over meals here several times for that reason precisely. Tonight, however, I screwed around downtown for long enough that I was starving and it was the closest thing nearby that I hadn't tried yet.
Initially, it has all the trappings of a generic Mexican restaurant where you can get sizzling fajitas served on iron skillets purchased at a Chili's going-out-of-business sale. There's an added smattering of Native American art, though it could be Native Central American art. The requisite ranchero music drowns some of the sound of nearby diners, but not enough that you can't hear their asinine conversation about how the Seahawks only won because the game is rigged and the NFL is investigating. Add in the obligatorily massive menu and, yep, 3.5 stars seems about right.
No real surprises here...
The little touches are what set this apart from every other Mexican restaurant you have ever found herds of Caucasians eating in.
For example, in addition to pico de gallo and spicy salsa with your chips, they bring a little dish of refried beans. They have mole poblano on the menu. And with the check the bring a couple little fried dough things filled with fruit and dusted in cinnamon sugar and topped with whipped cream. (I'm originally from Virginia where for years the only Mexican food I had was from Taco Bell, so I have no idea what those things are called).
I love mole and it's hard to find, but it's also easy to make badly so I asked for a sample. The kitchen whipped me up a fresh tasting. I don't know enough about mole to know if made-to-order is good or bad because I imagined mole being made like actual gravy in a big pot and ladled out to order instead of being made fresh. Either way, the sample satisfied me that it was delicious, if a bit runny. In addition to all the regular mole flavors I enjoy, it had a nice little hint of cool ranch Doritos. So I had that.
The mole poblano is served regular or burrito style. The waitress suggests that if you are lazy, like her (literally, that's what she said), that burrito style is better. Otherwise it is served with a side of tortillas, corn or flour…some assembly required. I don't know if there was a disconnect in the sample--that I literally ate with a spoon--and the entrée, or if the chicken (thigh meat) made the dish too much to handle, but about halfway in I found myself less than enamored with the choice. It wasn’t to the point of regretting my decision, but I certainly enjoyed it less than hoped and expected.
The check came 3/4 of the way through my entrée. And just when I think you can't get any dumber, you go and do something like that…and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF! By bringing me a mini dessert. Yum. Delicious.
I'd upgrade the rating from "meh" to a resounding "hmm!"