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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where prayers for good food are answered

Holy Taco's patio
  • www.holy-taco.com
  • Holy Taco's patio
Besha's been raving about Chef Robert Phalen at Holy Taco in East Atlanta Village for some time. Phalen has quite a resume and is taking over the Inman Park space recently vacated by Shaun Doty, one of his earlier employers.

Wayne and I decided to pay a visit to Holy Taco Saturday night, since we haven't visited in about a year. "Holy Taco!" indeed. While we recognized a few dishes since our last visit, the menu has morphed into something way different from its original Mexican form.

We ordered a variety of dishes, starting with merguez-like lamb sausages grilled and served on a skewer with romesco, a classic Catalonian sauce, here made with a twist. Almonds are blended into the traditional sauce but Phalen serves it with sliced whole almonds.

For my entree, I ordered pork milanesa, a dish found all over Latin America. Phalen doesn't — as so many here do — drench the pork in sauce. He sits the pork over a pool of mojo rojo, a Spanish sauce, that here features strong notes of cumin and garlic. Phalen adds the novel ingredient of peanuts tossed in a chipotle sauce. Fantastico.

Wayne dabbled with the menu, ordering two tacos — swordfish and skirt steak. He also ordered elote and a plate of roasted cauliflower enlivened with tart manzanilla olives and creamy, sweet dates. Everything Phalen puts together is like an irresistible composition in counterpoint.

The restaurant was packed with a 25-minute wait Saturday night. I know there have been complaints about service in the past, but our server, Jessica, was terrific. She had a comprehensive knowledge of the menu and if she couldn't answer a question, she'd run to the kitchen.

Really, if you haven't been here or it's been a while, make it a priority. Oh, and it's cheap.

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