El Aguila, Pleasant Hill CA
One of Zach’s friends recommended that we try El Aguila, and we’re better off for having done so tonight for dinner. Open for just about a year, this is a place that, once more people know about it, will be very, very popular. Let alone excellent Mexican flavors, the ingredients are immaculate. Produce is fresh, tortillas are hand made, and all of the meat is grass fed, organic, antibiotic-, hormone-, and pesticide-free. We got a broad variety so as to show you what’s available.
Light, crunchy, and spiced with salt and paprika, small batches of chips are pan fried and handed out as you wait for your order. It was a nice surprise not to have a typical tortilla chip but these thin, fresh slices of potato that weren’t greasy at all.
The taquitos were the special of the day. Served with a ladle of red mole, the dish was a delight. The chicken was moist and the tortilla itself was crispy and crunchy. The mole was mildly sweet and had a very broad spectrum of spices, where nothing overpowered the palate. The sauce’s texture was very smooth, and the garnishes including the queso fresco were excellent toppers.
Hands down, this was August’s favorite. The chicken was tangy and sweet with only a mild spiciness, as it was braised with caramelized onions and a light chipotle sauce. The onions were actually caramelized, not just sweated – they were so soft and tender, they practically melted. The tortilla was soft and fluffy, a great texture to wrap around the crisp vegetables. Simple ingredients put together with a knowledgeable hand make for some of the best food.
With green nopalitos and tomatoes, this pork was a sumptuous dish. It was just a little too spicy for August, but Zach really enjoyed the flavor behind the heat. He thought it was tangy and mildly acidic, which paired very well with the pork. The meat was unbelievably fork tender and surprisingly light; he wasn’t left with a heavy feeling in his stomach, most likely due to the organic origin of the pork. It came with sides of black beans, Spanish rice, and tortillas. The beans were flavorful with garlic, onion, and a hint of cumin. The rice was done well, and the tortillas were necessary for the delicious chile verde sauce. The nopalitos on top were some of the better ones we’ve tried.
For a tlacoyo, a tortilla is filled with refried pinto beans and mozzarella cheese, then striped with crema and sprinkled with queso fresco. Don’t be fooled if you order this and you get what looks like a typical American-style quesadilla, because this is far from it. It is a simple yet delicious treat, and Zach especially liked the little bit of cheese that oozed out to make a grilled cheese skirt melded with Mexican flavors.
Same animal, two meats, two fabulous tacos. Al pastor is marinated and vertically rotisserie’d with onion and pineapple, while Latin American chorizo is typically processed with chili peppers and vinegar. The al pastor was very slightly tangy and mildly spicy, while the chorizo was more predominantly spicy with garlic alongside the chili pepper. Both were exceptionally lean and not at all greasy.
There is a refrigerator with lots of bottled beverages, but El Aguila boasts homemade aguas frescas, therefore we had to try their horchata and jamaica tea. We loved the creamy horchata and August swigged it pretty quickly. Zach, for the first time, felt that he could actually taste the hibiscus flower used for the jamaica, as opposed to sugary sweetness that he had associated with jamaicas of the past. The taste was very floral, tangy, mildly sweet, and quenching. We got the aloe vera drink just because it’s aloe juice with real aloe pulp – it didn’t seem like a common drink, so of course our curiosity got the better of us. The pulp is similar to orange juice pulp but slightly bigger and juicier. If you think you don’t like pulp (August is one of those), don’t worry, it’s not offensive and August ended up really liking it. The flavor is sweet and similar to a mixture of apple, pear, and a bit of citrus. It’s purportedly good for your skin and digestive track, too.
El Aguila is open every day for lunch and dinner, they offer catering services, and fresh homemade chorizo is available for you to buy to take home – you just have to ask. Elena, one of the owners, was beyond friendly and provided excellent service to all the guests. We were thoroughly impressed and hope this place grows.