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Originally published Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 7:04 PM

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Dining Deals

El Comal: Must-try Salvadorean eats fill menu at Crossroads

El Comal in Bellevue's Crossroads neighborhood serves pupusas, tamales and other Salvadorean treats.

Seattle Times staff reporter

El Comal

Salvadorean

15920 N.E. Eighth St.,

Suite 2, Bellevue

425-643-1500

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 10:30 a.m.- 2 a.m. Fridays-Sundays; closed Tuesdays.

Etc: Visa, MasterCard; no obstacles to access; street and lot parking; full bar.

Prices: $-$$

You will be forgiven if you are flummoxed by El Comal's menu in Bellevue's Crossroads neighborhood. The menu is organized well enough, but the abundance of choices will paralyze indecisive eaters who want to try everything under the Salvadorean sun. You will realize, sadly, that your stomach has a limit.

El Comal is an offshoot of the Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant in White Center. El Comal's food lives up to the same standards, with absolutely fresh and delicious dishes. If a tamale ($2.75) could ever be described as fluffy, El Comal's version certainly is.

The menu: El Comal offers Salvadorean standards, such as traditional pupusas ($2.50 each), handmade tortillas filled with cheese, beans and meat; and Canoa, fried plantains stuffed with ground beef and vegetables ($9.95). Carne asada ($15.95) and chile relleno ($11.95) also make an appearance, served with a side of thick tortillas.

Sugar fiends will be happy to see the sumptuous baked goods on the dessert menu at El Comal, including luscious tres leches cake ($6.50).

What to write home about: It's all about the pupusas. The pork version was piping hot, fresh and savory, with a side of tasty pickled cabbage slaw to cut the rich pork. But the tamale puts up a fight for favorite small dish, with a dreamy lightness to the masa stuffed with pork and vegetables.

The Pollo en Crema De Loroco ($11.95) — basically cream of mushroom soup on top of tender chicken with loroco, an edible blossom that adds flair — was hearty and delicious. The Pan con Pavo ($6.95), a turkey sandwich with pickled onions and gravy, was moist and juicy, if drippy.

What to skip: The Yuca Frita ($10.95) arrived with huge pieces of crispy yuca root and chunks of fried pork. The yuca was a delicious, thick variation on French fries, but the pork was heavy and chewy.

Some of the drinks ($2.75), including Tamarindo and Fresco de Ensalada (a mix of pineapple, fruit and lettuce that tastes like a salad) are an acquired taste and verge on overly sweet.

The setting: The restaurant is in a strip mall, but it has a cheerful vibe with checkered tablecloths and a bar in the corner. The service ranged from sluggish to downright slow, though the kitchen sent us a dessert because of the wait.

Summing up: A meal of two main dishes and a pupusa was just under $40 with tip, with enough left for another meal for each. It's the kind of restaurant where you'll go with every intention of trying something new but wind up eating pupusas. Go figure.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

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