Have you had a dining experience that felt like a dream? I went with a couple of girlfriends to celebrate some good news to Casa Pantera and it was like a very good dream. Probably because of the premium Mescal they served and drank with us.
It opened in July and has been popular with sold out reservations from day 1. We made a last minute reservation on Sunday and were able to get a 9:15 pm Tuesday reservation. We thought it was late but the kitchen closes at 10 pm, and the bar and dining area is open til 11 pm. I would highly recommend coming at least 15 minutes earlier because they are slammed and parking is hard to find.
Logistics aside, I came early and walked around. This is a beautiful restaurant. It reminds me of Tarzan’s treehouse at Disneyland with the 2 levels and the surrounding walkway with seating in and out. It was very well designed with picturesque nooks and crannies; a delightful date night venue and IG worthy backgrounds for sure.
I sat at the very back at the bar where there was an open kitchen and you could see all the workers and chef creating their beautiful dishes. I was the only one there and at first they thought it was crazy but I asked if I could sit there and just eat and watch their work, like a Japanese omakase bar. I was able to take lots of pictures of their incredible dishes as they plated and sent them out of the kitchen.
My friends arrived and since one of them was expecting, she couldn’t drink or eat certain things. She got a Paloma (Virgin) which was surprisingly legit, we didn’t miss the alcohol at all. I got a Michoacana Mule which definitely had a kick but was very refreshing. My other friend got a Bruja which was downright brutal, that thing packed so much alcohol it felt like a sucker punch.
Chef gave us a roasted cauliflower for being so patient, and I kid you not, it was one of the best roasted cauliflowers I’ve ever had. It had golden raisins and salsa matcha, so it was sweet, savory and spicy.
Honestly that was basically the theme of the night. I asked and was told that the concept is something like a Modern Mexican Chophouse, using Mexican techniques and cooking methodology and indigenous ingredients but with a modern twist. They have menus that are seasonal and changes keep things exciting and fresh
What that meant was a backdrop of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors intermingled with contrasting textures of whole nuts, thick salsas and sauces, and gummy raisins. Somehow it works really well together and creates vibrant contrasting and fun dishes with seasonal veggies and fresh proteins (surf and turf). I don’t need to go on about the freshness of the oysters juxtaposed with the cucumber granita (my favorite of the night), it tasted like a cucumber agua fresca with a salty finish. The seafood tower was a good starter mix. I still think the best ceviche is at Amar, but this came close with the creamy coconut base.
The ribeye was tender ( had to get it medium well, not my favorite, in deference to my friend’s condition) but it still was juicy on the inside and tender. Could have used more salt on its own but with the mashed potato side which was as creamy and thick as a polenta, it was just perfect.
Now my friend’s shrimp cocktail was a relevation. We thought it was an ordinary from cocktails or in the glass with tomato base sauce and kind of liquidy, but it was not in the form at all! It was plated like a regular dish and yet the taste match exactly of a shrimp cocktail was very odd and exciting to be honest that they could do this with textures.
Chef made us his guinea pigs since we were sitting in front of him and had us try his sorbet as well as brand new mezcal ice cream. Super refreshing on a hot day since we’re sitting outside without AC and just a fan. Best seats in the house!
We also got to drink with him with some mezcal, and it was so smoky and rich and just smooth. Don’t ask me what the name was, it had accents and I can’t pronounce it that well after the strong drinks here.
After all that, the damage was about $155 for three people which included three drinks, an appetizer, a starter course, and a steak. Was definitely not bad at all and we were pretty full.
The service was outstanding though the layout was so complicated. Multiple servers checked on us even though we weren’t sitting in our assigned seating. Everyone seemed happy that they were there, we got to see a birthday party with the birthday girl having the best makeup of her life.
This was a partnership borne of Mescal with Owner Austin and Chef Santiago dreaming up their idea while bonding over drinks. Both are local boys born and raised; Chef came from the Lower Valley and hustled to make his dreams come true, Austin owns the bar next door and opened this.concept because he knew the new noise ordinance would change his business.
I would definitely come back and try it again; this was a treat. It felt like a dream, one that I would gladly come back to again…well, a girl can dream right?
3015 Pershing Dr, El Paso, TX 79903