Saturday, October 1, 2016

El Gran Castillo de Jagua

We found ourselves in Prospect Heights recently around dinnertime, and after checking our bookmarks on the map, decided to stop in at El Gran Castillo de Jagua, a restaurant that seemed to us like a diner, Dominican style. The menu had soups, salads, sandwiches, daily specials, and an extensive list of meat and seafood options. Although we've eaten plenty of Dominican food in our lifetimes, we had somehow never written about any of it for WorldEats, so we figured this would be a good place to start.

After ordering, the first thing to arrive was a basket full of buttered, griddled bread. This was delicious. It was buttered and then "cooked" further on a griddle to warm the bread and melt the butter. One of the pieces also looked like it was smushed in a sandwich press which crisped the crust a bit more than the others. The really nice thing about griddling instead of toasting the bread is that, especially for M, the crust wasn't overly crunchy. It also didn't toast the bread itself; it just made it nice and warm.

Both of our entrees came with rice and beans on the side. We hadn't realized that rice and peas was an option when she was asking whether we wanted yellow or white rice, so we both ended up with yellow rice and beans. The rice itself was okay. It was a little dry and hard, and didn't have as much flavor as some other places we've been to before. A got the black beans, and M got red beans, and both were good and more flavorful than the rice.

For the entree, M got the pollo guisado (stewed chicken). She thought it was okay. The meat was tender and the flavor was fine, but it alternated in temperature throughout the plate. The same was true of the dish that A got. We both thought that was strange since we could see the steam table in the back of the restaurant, and the meat from most steam table places is usually piping hot. We realized when we passed by the steam table though that there was so much meat in the tray that the meat was only partially submerged, and it was a cool night with the door open and the fans on, so it must have been that part of the meat that was chopped off was above the water line and exposed to the cool air. That would account for all the temperature differences.

A's entree was the pernil. His initial impression was one of amusement as it was a literal plate of meat that came out. He's more accustomed to getting a small portion of meat on top of the rice next to the beans. The meat was mostly tender, though there were some definite drier pieces. There was a lot less fat on the meat, though, so that made it easier to just dig through the meat without having to worry about getting a blob of pure fat. Overall the meat had pretty good flavor, but it's not the best he's had. It wasn't too salty, and the lime squeezed on top gave it a nice brightness. M thought that the pernil had more flavor than the pollo guisado.

We thought our dinner at El Gran Castillo de Jagua was fine, but we've had other Dominican food in the city that we've liked better (and that we'll hopefully be able to share at some point). If we were in the area, we might drop by again, but we probably wouldn't travel there to get our Dominican food fix (especially with some great options that are closer).

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