Food fit for a king

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By Tony Cheong

Azteca Mexican Restaurant features food fit for a king.

It better, because everywhere you look (left, right, up, down) there he is: Elvis Presley.

By Tony Cheong

Azteca Mexican Restaurant features food fit for a king.

It better, because everywhere you look (left, right, up, down) there he is: Elvis Presley.

To call Azteca owner J.J. Jauregui an Elvis fanatic would be an understatement. Put  it this way: there’s no way to measure these sorts of things, but Juaregia sports the most impressive collection of Elvis memorabilia I’ve ever seen.

He does draw the line, though.  I looked for Elvis’ favorite meal – a peanut butter and banana sandwich – on the sprawling, diverse menu, and it wasn’t there.

What was there was taquitos, ceviche, tostadas, garlic steaks, tacos, tamales, chili verde (a favorite of regulars), enchiladas, burritos, chicken wings and, yes, hamburgers and French fries.

We ordered a beef taco, a chicken enchilada, rice, beans, albondigas soup (meatballs and veggies in a rich broth) and a couple of coldies.

The hard shell taco was hearty and the beef was cooked and seasoned to my liking. My peccadillo when it comes to meat dishes is that chefs too often overseason the meat, so that the seasoning overwhelms the goods. Not so at Azteca. The beef was seasoned with a skillful hand, and my friend thought the same of the chicken in her enchilada. And she noted that the chicken was tender, as well.

I’m always surprised at Mexican restaurants that don’t get the rice and beans right, but Azteca tends to the basics, and the salsa that I like to drizzle over my rice and beans was delicious, with a zing.

I’ve saved my favorite for last: the albondigas soup.

I ordered it on a whim and didn’t expect anything earth-shaking, but wow! The broth seemed to provoke my taste buds to get up and do a little jig, the veggies added nice texture and the meatballs were the next best thing to my homemade balls. Let’s just say I’ll be skipping the menudo in favor of albondigas soup for awhile, at least.

What else? Jauregui, who I’ve heard is a warm host, was not around but the staff was very attentive. Azteca is no hole-in-the-wall. Rather, it’s spacious, including a bar that’s separate from the dining area. I wondered in, still awed by all the Elvis artifacts, and there above the bar I saw a picture of Elvis and Jesus.

I’m in touchy territory, but I don’t think Jesus would be offended.

But if by chance the Second Coming occurs in Azteca (and why not?), and he is offended, my suggestion to Jauregui is to skip Elvis’ early stuff, put on some of his gospel songs and feed JC what you fed me. Someone in the forgiving business couldn’t help but forgive after a few bites of that bounteous, sumptuous fare…

Azteca Mexican Restaurant

12911 Main St.

Garden Grove

714-638-3790