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Finding paradise at El Paraiso

I was sucked into the hellish pandemonium of El Paraiso the very second I spotted the restaurant at 4690 Harlan Street, rising up beside the road in its mustard-yellow glory. Waiting for me inside was a flurry of commotion, a circus of stimulation for every sense.

The menu at El Paraiso offers no respite: It's many pages long and replete with burritos, tacos and combination plates, in addition to a number of choices not translated to English. But after navigating the hundreds of offerings, I finally got a glimpse of paradise: the very traditional Mexican dishes.

The molcajete has a historic context in Mexican cuisine; the dish comes in a stone bowl with legs that was once part of a mortar and pestle set. The molcajetes at El Paraiso hit the table full of sizzling grilled meats and fish and peppers and cactus, simmering in their own juices, and accompanied by warm, house-made corn or flour tortillas (I prefer corn, but maybe that's the purist talking). Parrilladas displayed many of the same grilled meats, heaped onto a white-hot grill pan. The twenty or so on the menu incorporate grilled rabbit, roasted lamb chops, spiky crab legs and whole fish, including the eyes. Each parrillada is a veritable feast, meant to be shared with a large gathering of family and friends, a heavenly meal consumed for the simple joy of eating.

Want a quick trip to paradise? Find the full review of El Paraiso here later today, as well as a slide show showing more of the restaurant.

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