El Valle opens in Midtown for Mexican food, drinks with a twist

A dish from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Combined ShapeCaption
A dish from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Two friends who met 10 years ago while working at a Midtown restaurant have returned to the same building to work together on a new eatery.

El Valle Kitchen and Bar is now open at 800 Peachtree St. NE. The building was previously home to Mexican restaurant Escorpion, which closed last year after operating for a decade.

Luis Damian previously worked as the executive chef at Escorpion, where he met bar manager Miguel Chavez. Chavez now serves as the bar manager for El Valle.

“We came full circle,” said Damian. Also on board at El Valle are Damian’s business partner Faye Jonah, chef Gabriel Camargo and the Naraghi family.

Though El Valle serves Mexican food like its predecessor, its menu has a different focus.

“We wanted to present Mexican food to Atlanta, but not just in the traditional way, with just Tex-Mex and tacos,” Jonah said.

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A dish from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

A dish from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Combined ShapeCaption
A dish from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Credit: Karen Calver

She called the cuisine featured on El Valle’s menu “elevated Mexican,” with ingredients not found on a lot of other menus, including the Mexican herb hoja santa, while still keeping the thread of some familiar Mexican dishes and techniques.

Look for appetizers including halibut ceviche, soft shell crab with polenta, and herb guacamole and “masas” like roasted cauliflower tacos with pineapple salsa, and an octopus quesadilla with Oaxacan cheese, poblano peppers and salsa verde.

Large plates include branzino with capers wrapped in an hoja santa leaf, a 30-day wet-aged rib-eye marinated in tamarind and mushroom-stuffed chicken with romesco sauce, with side dish options like elote-style corn pudding and poblano mac and cheese.

The menu was a collaboration between Damian and executive chef Camargo, who also serves as a partner at Buckhead French restaurant F&B and brings French cooking techniques and flavors to the mix. Jonah, a pastry chef who also owns Cirque Confections in Sandy Springs, developed El Valle’s dessert menu, which include horchata panna cotta and deconstructed Mexican s’mores.

Many of the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced locally, including from Tucker Farms and Revere Meats, with hard-to-find ingredients hailing from area Mexican markets.

El Valle’s beverage menu features an extensive list of Mexican wines, along with several Latin American labels.

The craft cocktail list, with 12 options, was developed by Chavez and Alan Suarez of Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar in Mexico City.

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A cocktail from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

A cocktail from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Combined ShapeCaption
A cocktail from the menu of El Valle.

Credit: Karen Calver

Credit: Karen Calver

“We didn’t want to just limit ourselves to just tequilas and mezcals,” Damian said. “They’re a little different than what you normally see. The way (Suarez) comes up with flavors is really good.”

Among cocktails, the Contigo Aprendi is made with sous vide pineapple rum, while the Me Gustas Mucho uses tomato honey cordial. One of Damian’s favorites is the Mujeres Divinas, made with marries gin, strawberry cordial, lime and agave.

Designed by Maria Dominguez of locally-based Maison Maulee interior design, the space features the same layout as El Escorpion, with a large bar area and patio.

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The interior of El Valle.

Credit: El Valle

The interior of El Valle.

Credit: El Valle

Combined ShapeCaption
The interior of El Valle.

Credit: El Valle

Credit: El Valle

Most changes were cosmetic, moving from Escorpion’s dark tones to “light, warm” colors, according to Jonah, including white, green and gold accents. The makeover includes new furniture, reupholstered banquettes and a retiled bar.

“We wanted to make it very comfortable,” Jonah said. “We want people to enjoy their time and make it a place for people to gather.”

Opening hours are 5-10 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays-Thursdays, with the bar staying open until midnight and 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays with the bar open until 1 a.m. Lunch will be added in the coming weeks.

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