From tapas to dessert, El Meson is a hit
By Brian P. Sharp
There are a few things that we as consumers expect as we shop or dine. We want the very best quality with the very best service at the very lowest price. No matter whether we are shopping for televisions or dinner, no one can deliver all three of those at the same time. We as consumers have to decide where we are willing to sacrifice. Will we sacrifice service or quality just to get the lowest price? Or will we sacrifice the lowest price to get the best quality and the best service?
El Meson certainly delivers on two of those better than most. On a busy Saturday night, my friend Steve and I stopped by El Meson for dinner. We walked in, without a reservation, and were greeted immediately – and when I say greeted I don’t mean a simple smile or hello. I mean greeted cheerfully by a young woman that told me the name of the hostess that would be right with me. While we waited, mere moments, every worker that passed us was cheerful and friendly and spoke to us. We were offered options for seating – the bar area, the dining room or the solarium. I was assured that it was warm and comfortable on the solarium, and just as she said that, one of the servers walking by opened the door to the solarium and said, “Come on out and experience yourself.”
While looking over the menu we were greeted by Mary Z who, as the night progressed, proved to be an outstanding server. We chose to start with a pitcher of sangria. While waiting for the sangria, fresh bread was served and accompanied by a bowl of aji sauce for topping (Mary Z told us it is available for purchase to take home).
We decided that, knowing El Meson is famous for tapas, we definitely had to start with something. This month the featured menu is from Spain, and while we are moving into fall, there was a gazpacho – chilled tomato, cucumber and green pepper soup served with croutons. The other choice was Tinga de Pollo – Mexican seasoned chicken, chipotle and onion dip served with corn chips. Between the two appetizers, the bread and the sangria, we were filling up quickly.
Tapas options vary from corn quesadillas, manchego puffs (cheese puffs), homemade chorizo and even a corn cake option that range in price from $7 to $15. There are soup options like chicken tortilla or black bean that range in price from $4 to $10.
Entrées are offered in vegetarian, seafood, chicken, pork or beef options. The signature dish Solomillo – a filet of beef served on a 600-degree plate – allows you to slice the beef as thin or as thick as you desire and cook it at your place. Paella, once a rare treat at El Meson, is now a regular menu option. This Spanish saffron rice dish is served with chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, chorizo, mussels, peas, pimentos, lemon, tomatoes and onions. Another Paella option is similar, but served without pork or chicken and adds scallops, jumbo shrimp and calamari. The Paella is $30 for a single serving, $50 for 2 servings and $70 for 3.
Steve chose an option from the featured menu from Spain – Filete de Chipotle on Queso Borracho. This trio of filet medallions topped with chipotle pepper sauce, drunken goat cheese soaked in red wine and accompanied by rice and lentils at $22. I chose Arroz con Pollo– a South American rice dish served with shredded chicken, cilantro, tomato and onion – topped with grilled chicken breast at $18. This entrée is served topped with plantain chips and a side of black beans. While more appropriate for the faint at heart (meaning it isn’t overly spicy), I asked Mary Z if she could get me something to kick this up a notch. Not only did she find me an option, but she found me two perfect options.
The dinner options at El Meson are full of flavor with a Hispanic flair. The staff is amazingly attentive. In fact, when the appetizers were ordered I swear Mary left through one door with the order and a server came out another door with our appetizers. To say this staff is efficient is simply an understatement. They see to every detail of every dinner. The people clearing tables check on you, the other servers check on you, the hostesses check on you. Yet, they do this in the most unobtrusive way. This is by all means a VERY happy and engaged staff.
While totally and completely full, we had to consider dessert. Both of us made a choice off the extensive dessert list. Steve chose a homemade crepe filled with creamed caramel and topped with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate, while I chose a dish of chocolate ice cream topped with coffee liqueur, cinnamon and whipped cream.
This meal was a complete hit. You must return to El Meson over and over again to experience all that this restaurant has to offer. Clearly, El Meson delivers service and quality, and while prices may seem high to some, a meal can be made out of tapas options that keep this very affordable.
Keep up the great work! Who wants to join me for a pitcher of sangria and some tapas?
El Meson is located at 903 E. Dixie Dr. in West Carrollton. For more information, including hours, call 937.859.8229 or visit elmeson.net.
Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com