No, not Christmas. Not that I have anything against Christmas, but I'm talking about what really floats my boat--Restaurant Week. The time of year that you can get out and try some great Twin Cities fare at a seriously cheap price. I mean come on, a three course dinner at the Capital Grille for $30? You can't beat it.
To kick off the week, my boyfriend Mike and I went to Cafe Ena in the Tangletown area of South Minneapolis ("Ena" comes from the name of their young daughter--how cute!). They describe themselves as Latin Fusion cuisine that was inspired by trips through Latin America. They wanted to bring some of that big flavor from south of the border to the south side of our big city. From what I found, they did just that.
When you walk in you can smell the fresh flavors that are to come--the citrus, the spices, and a lot of garlic! It was a very intimate, comfortable setting with a lot of rich woodwork and a very open dining space that you could view what was going on in the kitchen from every seat. To start out, I ordered a glass of Malbec for only $3 (!), and Mike had a Coke which came in an old fashioned glass bottle. The bread course was served with warm butter that was infused with roasted red peppers and garlic--it was that good crusty bread that had a soft center. I had to practice some good restraint not to finish the whole basket myself! The first appetizer was a crab and avocado terrine drizzled with a very lemony oil and accompanied by fresh made tortilla chips. It was an unexpected explosion of flavor--a little different at first, but it melded together nicely once my tastebuds were fully awake. The second appetizer we tried was the Queso Fundido which was pan seared cheese topped with avocado sauce and pico. It was good, but I think we had expected the creamy cheese you find in most Latin restaurants. In retrospect, we should've tried two things that had a little more contrast in flavors, but both were good stand-alone dishes. On to the entrees... I had the halibut with wild mushroom risotto, spinach, and a truffle butter cream sauce. It was fresh tasting, but absolutely rich and decadent at the same time. The fish was perfectly cooked and I loved the layering of flavors. Mike had prosciutto-wrapped grouper stuffed with crab, and garlic mashed potatoes. Although he liked it, the crab didn't mesh with the grouper as well as he had pictured. For dessert we had churros served with warm chocolate ganache and cinnamon ice cream. The churros reminded me of the ones you'd get at Taco John's, but unfortunately not as good. The accompaniments however were lovely--the churros just became a vehicle for getting the ice cream and chocolate into my mouth.
The final verdict of Cafe Ena: We would definitely go back, but we'd tweak our choices a bit. After all, life is about choices and trying new experiences, and this is one we're glad we had.