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Atlanta restaurant reviews: Casa Robles in Roswell

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At Casa Robles, an order of fried fish (crispy fried cod balls), is presented in a paper cone, just like at a fried fish shop (freiduría) in Seville, Spain. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

At Casa Robles, an order of fried fish (crispy fried cod balls), is presented in a paper cone, just like at a fried fish shop (freiduría) in Seville, Spain. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

That fried fish (fried fish) is a don’t-miss dish at Casa Robles. Dogfish is difficult to source, so Orellana uses cod, another favorite in Iberian cookery, and turns it into delicious, crispy fried balls.

Her pulpo a la gallega veers from the traditional octopus-potato-sweet paprika-olive oil combination. The grilled octopus was fork tender, but neither a Catalan-style pesto, nor a garnish of oil-drenched croutons, enhanced the seafood.

However, if you want fork-tender, cheeks (braised beef cheeks) fit the bill, though not the season. They came with carrots, potatoes and onions, like a hearty winter stew.

My bites of setas (mushrooms) and alcachofas (artichokes) were average, but yours will bring different flavors and cooking techniques, because the menu changed last week. They revamped those two dishes (among others), and removed some offerings, such as stuffed squid, stuffed calamari, plantain chips and roasted chicken with mojo sauce (having sampled each of those, I wouldn’t have recommended them).

They also added a few items, including a fish of the day served on fideua (a paella-type dish made with fried noodles instead of rice), as well as a hamburger.

I’m anxious to try that hamburger. Essentially a pupusa burger, it’s a culinary mashup, featuring a beef patty topped with a Salvadoran-style slaw, cheese from Oaxaca in Mexico and chile mayo, all sandwiched between corncakes.

Esquites (grilled Mexican street corn) is another recommended dish, but more interesting and less common is a Salvadoran-style tamale de pollo (chicken). For comparison, order it alongside a Mexican-style pork tamale. In the former, the corn flour, or masa, cooks in a seasoned tomato sauce. The latter is made with raw dough that is then steamed. Salvadorans wrap them in plantain leaves; Mexicans use corn husks. At Casa Robles, the chicken tamale was noticeably moister and more rounded in seasoning than its spicy Mexican counterpart.

Raciones (entree-portioned plates), tacos and pupusas form the other half of the menu. The only standouts on the $38 barbecue, a plate of mixed grilled meats, were one small link each of house-made Mexican and Salvadoran chorizo. I’d gladly pay a tapas price for slices of that Mexican pork chorizo ​​— tinged orange from ancho and morita chile peppers — and the chorizo ​​seasoned with cilantro, parsley, garlic and vinegar, like that made in Cojutepeque, a town whose sausages are the pride of El Salvador.

Skip the four (meat-only) tacos that feel out of place on this menu, and instead try one of the pupusas. It was important to Orellana to include El Salvador’s national dish of griddled corncakes on the menu. Both the cheese- and pork rind-filled versions were moist and oily. A topper of slaw cut through the grease.

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The corn in textures dessert at Casa Robles celebrates corn through different textures: moist cake, smooth ice cream, crunchy caramel popcorn and a warm sauce. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

The corn in textures dessert at Casa Robles celebrates corn through different textures: moist cake, smooth ice cream, crunchy caramel popcorn and a warm sauce.  Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

The corn in textures dessert at Casa Robles celebrates corn through different textures: moist cake, smooth ice cream, crunchy caramel popcorn and a warm sauce. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Still, Orellana best honors her roots with a dessert that recognizes the centrality of corn on a Salvadoran table. Corn in textures celebrates corn’s transformative textures with a moist cake, smooth ice cream, crunchy caramel popcorn and a warm sauce. The latter is inspired by Orellana’s memories of sipping atole de elote, like an American kid drinks hot chocolate.

However, in prioritizing texture and flavor, the mix of temperatures is forgotten, and the presentation quickly turns messy.

That’s not the only dish that seems to focus so much on one aspect (an ingredient, a texture, a technique, a riff on a familiar dish) that others suffer. Inspiring one or two of the senses, others are left wanting.

Aside from what the kitchen brings to Casa Robles, the bar provides appropriate cocktails, wines and beers, with house-made agua fresca for those who abstain. And, a casual ambiance is built around comfortable, contemporary furnishings; a bold color palette of black, red and blue; and a lively Latin playlist.

As friendly and efficient as the front of the house is, they could do a better job by extolling the unique elements of the menu. It’s moments like a server selling me on that corn dessert — with his enthusiasm for Orellana’s distinctive corn ice cream recipe (“We even had to call Italy!”) — that can keep us from mistaking Casa Robles for just another tapas restaurant.

Iberian and Latin American flavors are showcased by the menu at Casa Robles, which predominantly is tapas. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Iberian and Latin American flavors are showcased by the menu at Casa Robles, which predominantly is tapas.  Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Iberian and Latin American flavors are showcased by the menu at Casa Robles, which predominantly is tapas. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

HOUSE OAKS

Food: caps

Services: welcoming and efficient

Best dishes: Mexican street corn, pork tamale, chicken and chickpea tamale, croquettes, fried fish, grilled octopus, desserts — especially the “study” in corn textures and the caramel flan

Vegetarian selections: cheese salad, bread with tomato, Mexican street corn, roasted vegetable plate, artichokes, mushrooms, fried potatoes, cheese pupusas

Alcohol: full bar

Pricerange: $$$

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: 5-9 pm Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4-10 pm Fridays-Saturdays

Children: adventurous eaters

Parking: free parking lots

MARTA station: none

Reservations: accepted

Wheelchair access: And it is

Noise level: mean

Outdoor dining: covered patio with overhead fans

Takeout: in-person ordering only

Address, phone: 48 Oak Street, Roswell. 678-226-9600

website: casaroblesroswell.com

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