Los Portales Mexican Restaurant, 430 Moffett Boulevard, Mountain View, CA 94040
Date: 28 Nov 11
Cost (Value): $$$ (4)
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General: I have eaten at Los Portales several times (in fact it was one of the first Mexican restaurants I sampled when I first moved back to the Central Coast). I am glad I finally got the chance to review it here, since it is one of the better places I've tried since I started this blog. Los Portales is a little off the beaten path where most poeple wouldn't drive right by it, but this family-run restaurant is worth a small diversion if you happen to be in the area.
I ordered: On this trip, I ordered the Combinacion Grande G5 (including a cheese enchilada, beef tamale, beef taco, rice, and beans). But, on past trips, I've primarily eaten one of several Los Portales speciality burritos.
Good: Readers of this blog know that I can't help bhut comment on a restaurant's atmosphere, or lack thereof, and believe it is an important part of the overall dining experience; so it is with Los Portales. The restaurant isn't much to look at from the outside, but the inside is tastfully decorated and Spanish-language music is played at a respectable volume. The staff is uber-friendly; as I mentioned, the restaurant is family-owned and family-operated, with the hostess, wait staff, and chefs all drawn from a pool of willing family members. I wouldn't call Los Portales menu "diverse," exactly, but they do have a good selection of traditional favorites (tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, and ensaladas), as well as a decent seafood selection. While purusing the menu, I began munching on the chips and salsa... What was this? A salsa that is the perfect mix of soupy and chunky, with a fresh, strong and spicy flavor that screamed "I was just made this morning". I loved it!! And when I asked for the spicier stuff, the conconction they brought out was equally tasty (I could taste the chiles!) and really delivered the heat. My order came out very quickly (the restaurant wasn't that full on a Monday at lunch) and was piping hot (always a good sign!). The taco was pretty standard, but tasty, and the tamale and enchilada were both well made. The rice and beans were excellent, very flavorful and a perfect compliment to the main items on the plate. I feel compelled to discuss Los Portales selection of burritos here (even if I didn't get one on this trip), as they are really the stars of the menu. Their burritos, most of which seem to be named after members of the family (such as "Ramone's Favorite"), are saucy affairs, filling and delicious! There is a large variety of burrito choices, for very resonable prices based on their size, and every burrito I've tried has delivered; my favorite so far is "Reggie's Favorite Burrito" (which they are welcome to rename "Ryan's Favorite" *joking*), stuffed with pork and sliced nopalitos. It is also worth mentioning that on my several trips to Los Portales, I have noticed that it has several regulars that seem to frequent the eatery daily; in my years as a foodie, I've usually found a regular following to be a positive indicator of a restaurant's quality over time.
Bad: Not much at all to pick on here... It would be nice if the menu had a bit more variety, such as a good sopa de tortilla or some appetizers, but that is a small complaint, certainly. The enchilada sauce coving the tamale and enchilada was not very flavorful, but not bad; it did not hurt my enjoyment of the meal, but neither did it contribute anything positive, which means it could have been left off with equal effect. Also, the prices seemed just a touch high, with most food of decent size going for between $13-$15; however, if you are looking for yummy and fillling on a smaller budget, stick to the excellent burritos (most are $9-$11).
Overall: Los Portales Mexican Restaurant is definitely a solid choice, and I will keep going back there for the great staff, excellent food, and can't miss salsa. If you have a chance, I'd highly recommend it for you as well!