From almost the day, more than 10 years ago, the Marin family opened their first fine cuisine Mexican restaurant in our area, Los Sarapes in Chalfont, it received high praise and instant success. Building on that success, they added El Sarape in Blue Bell (Center Square), and most recently, their third restaurant – Los Sarapes in Horsham - in May 2005. While I had already dined in the family’s earlier two restaurants, enjoying both occasions, I had never been to the newest and smallest, on Horsham Road near the intersection with Limekiln Pike.
So my lovely dining companion and I decided we were overdue, and paid it a visit on a midweek evening. We were enchanted on entering the 40-seat, tastefully decorated dining room. We were taken by the room’s coziness and warm feel, in part the result of its warm candle-lit glow, the walls’ sunny colors, and the tables clothed in midnight blue topped by sheets of orange-gold Kraft paper, and standing folded linen napkins.
The noise level was moderate, making it easy to hear the fluent Spanish spoken by the serving staff and the soft, lilting ambient Latin music.
Los Sarapes could serve as a suburban Mecca for tequila aficionados, having one of the largest (over 50) selections of this spirit, distilled below the border from the blue agave cactus. The house margarita made with middle-shelf tequila was adequate. Surprisingly, no beers – Mexican or otherwise – are offered on draft, but a good dozen bottled Mexicans are listed. I readily quaffed a very good one, El Tecate, presented with a lime wedge and one of those tall skinny beer glasses.
Let’s talk about the food. This is where you go when you graduate from Tex-Mex high school, having majored in tacos and burritos, and go on to higher Mexican cuisine college. For those who need a few college prep courses, the menu offers fajitas, enchiladas, and chile rellenos.
If there is one thing to go to Los Sarapes for, it is their magnificent signature entrée, named Huachinango, the superb two-pound, whole red snapper, cooked in extra virgin olive oil to a crispy (on the outside) golden brown, served upright on the platter as though still swimming. A dinnertime special, the dish is available in four distinct styles: al Mojo - w/sliced garlic; al Mango - w/sweet tequila-mango sauce; Veracruz style - w/tomato onion, pepper, olives; and Imperial - w/seafood medley (this latter, only by special request).
We chose to share (large enough for two) the Huachinango al Mango ($29.95). It was the kind of wonderful culinary experience that sticks in the memory, you think of weeks or months later, and you have to have again. A friend even calls in advance to reserve her red snapper.
One caution - it is the whole fish: head, eyes, fins, tail, bones intact. I happen to love fish this way, taking it apart, picking the sweet flesh off the bones, eating the crunchy outer skin. I know this is not for everyone. So if you want to savor this sweet white succulent delight, but don’t want to do the surgery, go on a midweek night, and ask the server for help filleting it – on weekends they are too busy to do this.
We also enjoyed an ultra-rich, thick, earthy hot cup of black bean soup ($3, $6/bowl). It was mildly spiced, so I requested and drizzled in some salsa verde, a rather mild and tasty hot sauce. Everything is a la carte, even the excellent homemade tortilla chips and pico de gallo salsa ($3).
Our appetizer, El Indio Azteca ($8.95), was a classic flour tortilla filled with shredded chicken, melted Chihuahua cheese, and mild poblano pepper, garnished with guacamole and cilantro. It resembled a quesadilla, only thicker and meatier, and was quite filling and satisfying.
We two had enough to eat by sharing these three courses, the food bill coming to only $40 (not including drinks, tax, and tip).
The lunch menu is more casual, including tacos and burritos not offered on the dinner menu. So just recently, I took my son with me for lunch.
We shared the Guacamole Real ($5/small, $10/large) made fresh daily. I love guacamole and always order it when I go Mexican. Here it was very smooth and creamy, and again not very hot and spicy.
My son chose a vegetarian enchilada ($7) with hot mole (a chocolate-based sauce), topped with onion, sour cream and cheese, and accompanied by rice and refried beans.
I was also highly pleased with my delicious plate of Camarones with Crema de Espinaca y Jalapeno ($9): shrimp marinated in garlic and tequila and Mexican herbs, sauteed with creamed pureed spinach and jalapeno pepper, and served with rice and salad. The shrimp were superb and the cream spinach sauce a triumph.
For the sweet tooth, Los Sarapes offers desserts like Helado d' Mango ($6) – mango mousse w/ chunks of mango; churros ($6) – flour tortillas with banana cheesecake; flan ($5) – caramel custard, and more.
Location: 1116 Horsham Road, Horsham
Cuisine: Fine Mexican
Hours: Lunch Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner Sunday – Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Dinner prices: appetizers, soups, salads $3 - $10.50; entrées, $13.50 - $32, (average $18)
Ambiance: Casual, cozy, warm, tastefully decorated, enchanting.
Reservations: Strongly suggested on weekends.
Credit cards: All major accepted
Alcoholic beverages: Yes, full-service bar, great tequila selection, bottled beers, wines.
Happy Hour: Tuesday - Friday 5 p.m. to 6 pm.
Wheelchair Access: YES
Special Features: Midweek discounts off food and drink. Children's menu.
Overall Rating: mmmm (out of 5 m’s) excellent, haute Mexican.
To contact Mitch Davis, you can e-mail him