The bacon craze is not new to South Florida, and the nation. However, this smoky trend is now infiltrating our Mexican restaurants. At nascent hot spot El Scorpion (in the old Tuscan Steak space on South Beach) pork-loving patrons can order bacon with their guacamole, nachos and tacos. The "Elvis" guacamole is a play on the late singer's beloved peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches. In this incarnation, the avocado represents the peanut butter, the plantains the bananas and the chunks of Benton's bacon are, well, just that. Somehow it all works: The resulting dip takes guacamole to the next level--in a good way.
Not everything at El Scorpion is infused with bacon, thankfully. This newcomer is about reinterpreting Mexican food with a gourmet spin. The tapas-style menu features salsas, ceviches, bar snacks, quesos, quesadillas, tacos and enchiladas. There are five entrees, but it is more fun to share some of the smaller plates with friends. In lieu of chips and salsa (you'll have to order that separately) guests are presented with a complimentary plate of sopes (masa cakes) with a chipotle peanut butter, pineapple habanero jam, and strawberry jalapeno jam. This is an unusual, spicy and delicious starter. The salsas are all freshly made at the restaurant's salsa bar. I found the Mexicana salsa a little too freshly made; the ingredients (tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, garlic and lime) did not have a chance to marinate together.
The signature ceviche features Ahi tuna, watermelon chunks,
Serrano peppers, honey, red onion and cilantro. I enjoyed this dish, but my
dining companions thought it was too sweet. Tacos come in orders of three; my
favorite was the barbecued chicken with pickled radish. The traditional grilled
Mexican corn, Elote Asada, was another crowd-pleaser with cream, queso cotija,
chile and lime. The kernels were scraped off the cob tableside by our very
genial and hardworking server, Joshua. For $7, however, there should have been
two ears of corn. Otherwise, prices are reasonable at El Scorpion with tacos,
on average, at $3.50 each and enchiladas at $11 per platter.
Last night, the dining room had a nice buzz; it was not
overly crowded. Co-owner Zach Chodorow (yes, his father is restaurant mogul
Jeffrey Chodorow) oversaw operations with a deft hand and was generally
interested in customer's feedback. He suggested the Spirit Bird margarita,
which is prepared tableside, and we complied. There are also non-margarita
tequila cocktails and tequila flights for those who like the taste of agave.
The only thing missing? Frozen margaritas. Sorry purists, I like mine slushy,
icy and cold.
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