Cilantro Tamales in Naples, FL

25 Aug

We had dinner this past Saturday night at Cilantro Tamales in Naples

The tamale platter features two big fat tamales

The chatter on the web looked pretty promising. Several Naples area blogs recommended this small, unassuming cantina on the north end of Highway 41. Cilantro Tamales was started by a former chef at the Ritz-Carlton. The story goes something like this: The chef wasn’t totally satisfied with his ability to create authentic homesyle Mexican cuisine, so he ran a newspaper ad and recruited several local Mexican homemakers to share their best family recipes. He picked the best of the best recipes, hired those ladies to work in his kitchen, and opened the restaurant. That was several years ago and by all indications we were in for a memorable meal. However, I must report that our dinner was far from perfect.

The complimentary tortilla chips were thick and chunky. The salsa was really tasty and had a nice citrus edge to it. My tamales were mostly masa (corn meal) and somewhat dry. The fillings (chicken and pork) were flavorful, but not exactly piping hot. The accompanying Mexican rice was obviously warmed with a microwave oven and the refried beans, topped with some chopped and flavorless cilantro, were most likely out of the can. Not what I was expecting given the unique story behind this restaurant’s opening. Cilantro Tamales’ slogan is something like “The Best Mexican Food You’ve Ever Eaten or It’s Free.”  I could have called them on this bold claim, but decided to be nice and let them slide. Maybe they just had an off day. The best I’ve ever had??? Not even close. I have made better tamales in my home kitchen and I have zero Mexican ancestry in my bloodline.

We finished our meal by sharing a plate of flan (caramel egg custard) dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. The custard was just a bit on the rubbery side, but otherwise not too shabby. It failed to achieve the lofty heights of my gold standard, which is the wonderful flan served up at Danny’s in Laredo, TX. Wish I could have that stuff shipped in on a monthly basis — it’s that amazing. Light and airy custard topped with a crackling caramel crust. Mui bueno!

www.cilantrotamales.com

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