Here in the Champaign, Urbana area we are spreading our wings when it comes to dining out. When I was a little girl I remember the city only offering a few places to dine for special occasions. Now as an adult I am happy to say that, that has all changed. I adore looking for new places that have exotic flavors to try and new stories to tell. After consulting friends and doing some of my own research I found one such place for a very special occasion of my own. My six year wedding anniversary!
It was a hot muggy night but my husband and I didn’t even notice. It was the evening of our anniversary and we were eager to spend time together and share a special meal. After narrowing down our dining choices to two spots we finally settled on Escobar’s. It’s been around for a few years but we’d yet to try it. Corey and I had heard good things about the place and decided to go for it.
We walked up to the brightly colored building with high hopes. Once inside we were met with deliciously exotic smells and a brightly colored atmosphere. The artwork on the walls was beautiful and the vibrant blues and yellows were a cheerful sight to behold. We were seated right away and the waitress promptly took our drink, appetizer, and dinner orders. If you haven’t read this before, I love to look up menus before hand and normally know what I want before we even enter the restaurant. It was no different this time.
It wasn’t long before our drinks and appetizers were at the table. I had the coconut shrimp with orange-jalapeno dipping sauce. The presentation was very nice, but when I lifted the first shrimp I noticed a puddle of grease underneath it, not very encouraging. I took a bite and surprisingly enough I didn’t taste the coconut, I didn’t really even see the coconut. The shrimp itself was fresh and meaty but the grease completely overwhelmed it. The dipping sauce that accompanied the shrimp was a little watery. The salad of well dressed greens was fresh and delicious. It helped to cleanse my palate for the next course.
Corey had the duck confit-taquitos with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. The guacamole was a delectable triumph and the dish was plated nicely. I didn’t taste the taquitos themselves but I was told they were crispy and the duck was cooked well. The salad was fresh and not over dressed.
Meanwhile, Corey had been sipping on his chilled sangria while I looked on excitedly waiting for a taste. When the red wine crossed my lips it was cold and sweet with hints of fresh fruit. It smelled amazing and tasted even better.
Our meals were quickly brought to the table by our friendly waitress. She was courteous and seemed genuinely excited about the menu when we ordered. I had selected one of the specials which consisted of chorizo and filet mignon kabobs, served with rice and fresh sautéed vegetables. The dish was plated beautifully. The rice was overcooked and mushy but the side of sautéed vegetables was cooked to perfection and seasoned well. I was disappointed about the rice because the flavor was there, it just wasn’t executed properly. The filet was tender and had nice grill marks on the outside. It was cooked to a nice medium rare. The chorizo was missing some heat and spice, it seemed to fall flat. The fresh vegetables and filet mignon were definitely the stars of the plate.
Corey chose a dish that was completely new to him, paella. His eyes widened with delight as the dish was set before him. I liked the vessel they chose to serve the paella in, it was rustic with a touch of class just like all of the dishes. Though the seafood was cooked well and again the flavors were there, there was some grit and sand. The scallops especially needed to be cleaned more throughly. Corey’s rice was cooked well and he enjoyed the fresh asparagus.
After finishing our meal we had just enough room for dessert. We ordered the cilantro-lime ice cream to share. It was a gorgeous bold green with flecks of fresh cilantro. It tasted smooth and creamy and reminded me a bit of a sorbet. I adored the taste of the tangy lime and the freshness of the cilantro together. It was a wonderfully cool and refreshing treat on such a hot evening.
I enjoyed enough parts of our meal that I’ll go back again. There were some problems with execution but the flavors were there. I would go back just for the sangria and cilantro-lime ice cream. I’m still learning about latino flavors and I’m glad to have a place in Champaign where I can learn more. I’m pleased that we chose escobar’s for our special meal, and we’re hopeful that the next time we dine there it will be even better.