Red Tango gets a lotta love from a lotta people, & Denver on a Spit & I are people, so we figured the odds were solid that we’d love it too.
Good thing we didn’t actually bet on it, as you’ll see. For what my 1st impression’s worth: with the possible exception of the arepas, the pan-Latin American food here doesn’t measure up to that the relatively nearby Sabor Latino. Which isn’t to say we didn’t have fun—up to & including the hungover recapping we conducted afterward via mutual Q&As.
For my perspective on the meal, check out Denver on a Spit’s blog; for his, read on.
Denveater: So tell me about this newfound holiday tradition of yours.
Denver on a Spit: The Arvada lights show. It is something else. There is nothing more American to do for the holidays than drive a long distance only to never get out of the car, pop open cans of alcohol (in this case it did happen to be champagne) and watch thousands of kilowatts of non-renewable energy be burned in perfect rhythm to the world’s worst Christmas music. I’m glad you and the Director appreciated it for all its holiday excess. I think it set the tone nicely for the rest of the night.
[Indeed. Don't miss the nutso video on the abovelinked post!]
D: Thinking back to our post about good signs & bad signs, seems to me the signs at Red Tango were mixed: affable staff—good; ham-pineapple special—bad. What aspects of the place made you go hmmm?
DOAS: I too was surprised (not in the suprise-it’s-your-birthday good way) to see the ham and pineapple “Hawaiian” special in this purported South American restaurant. On the other hand I was happy to hear the Chilean accents of the men at the bar when I got lost looking for the bathroom. Overall I got a good, friendly vibe from Red Tango.
D: Your favorite dish was the beef empanada. Why?
DOAS: That empanada was perfect. It was baked and the filling was like a rich beef stew. It reminded me of an empanada shop that my wife and I went to in Buenos Aires that featured baked-style empanadas from the Northern part of the country (and a little of the Bolivian Saltaeñas that they used to serve in that place on 6th Ave that is now sadly Lime XS). I am so sorry that I pretty much ate the whole thing and you both didn’t get to try it. Must have been all that holiday champagne that left me so uninhibited. Also great were the cheese arepas and for that matter the ceviche. All those first small plates were terrific.
D: Ha, that’s right, you did! That’s OK, we polished off its cheese-filled companion. After that, what happened with your entree? It didn’t go swimmingly at first.
DOAS: Yes, I made a switch at the last minute because the server made the pork adobado sound so good. It was three big chunks of pork that by themselves had very little taste and were a little dry, although they were pink going on red on the inside. Then I realized the bacon that wrapped them had fallen off. Once I figured out the bacon thing it was passable but underwhelming, and I didn’t finish it, which is a rarity. Then there was the salad: it was hot probably from the plate and it was all vinegar and salt. Raw but warm spinach in a bath of vinegar is never a good thing.
D: Still, we both felt there were some nice touches throughout the meal…
DOAS: I agree with the Director that the waiter’s attempts at Spanish were amusing at best, but he was very friendly and somehow we got a wine upgrade on our Carménère and then were charged less than the original price for two of the new bottles. That was very nice. Also the Chef’s split pea soup was excellent, as was the garlic-laden unique chimichurri-type sauce that was served with the bread.
D: After the meal you ordered flan. First of all, what did you think of it? Second, we were already stuffed! My philosophy is that I only order dessert if the meal is exceptional & I don’t want it to end, or if it’s totally unsatisfying & I don’t want to end on a sour note. Yours?
DOAS: I usually order dessert. Also I didn’t want the conversation to end. I don’t have too many philosophies, but I guess if I did the one that would apply to this situation would be that if I am sitting at a table in a restaurant for more than thirty minutes without eating, I feel strange, no matter how full I am. I think we were there for a good hour after our meal ended, so ordering flan was just a good way to keep the night going. If my warm salad hadn’t been taken away, I probably would have started picking at it again just because it was there.
D: So how was the flan? Who makes the best flan in town?
DOAS: The one at Red Tango was good. It was very eggy, thick and not too sweet. I absolutely love the flan—or as they call it in Venezuela, quesillo—at Empanada Express Grill in Golden.
D: Overall, how would you describe the atmosphere and character of the restaurant? What do you think they did best and what do they need to work on the most?
DOAS: I liked Red Tango, in spite of my entree. It’s hard to say what happened with our entrees, the creamy blackened chicken and bean ravioli was not executed well (though I love the idea of bean ravioli) and the Director’s arepa came up short with sauce on the mechada (which was basically the entire dish). Maybe we were there on an off night, but with the relatively short menu you think they would have the execution wired on each dish no matter what the hour.
On the other hand it was unpretentious with extremely friendly service. There is a comfortable family feel to it without being corny. It is also wildly popular, as evidenced by the full parking lot and the packed house when we arrived, so they must be doing something right for a lot of people.
D: Hear, hear…