I have been a big fan of El Meson for a while and I was excited to try their new sister restaurant Café Ena. The restaurant opened in May and serves “Latin fusion” cuisine. There are a lot of similarities to El Meson though I think Ena focuses more on Mexican inspired cuisine where El Meson has more of a Caribbean theme to the cuisine
We arrived at the restaurant on time for our reservation. I heard the hostess tell the people in front of us (who did not have a reservation) that there was a 45 minute wait for a table. The place was packed with a lot of people waiting in the lobby for a table. If you go I would recommend trying to get in on Open Table first. With a reservation we were seated immediately.
The restaurant is very nice inside. It feels a bit more upscale then El Meson does. The tables are fairly close together but not close enough to be irritating. My first impression of the menu was there were a lot of choices. The dishes seemed very complex. It was too dark to get readable photographs of anything so I skipped it.
We started with 2 appetizers. Cafe Ena was featuring a carrot ginger soup … “sopa del Dia”. We also tried the Tamal. The soup was quite good, very flavorful and of perfect consistency. The cup sized portion was just enough. The Tamal, described on the menu as a traditional Oaxacan tamal filled with chicken in a dark mole sauce wrapped in a banana leaf garnished with Cojita cheese was OK. Though I thought the mole seemed a bit lifeless. The filling was in the same category. It was prepared well, it just seemed to lack energy and flavor.
For entrees we tried the Atun which was a corriander-crusted ahi tuna served over serano mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, in an orange bell pepper cream sauce, garnished with a green apple fennel slaw.
I had a lot of problems with this dish.
The tuna was seared rare. I love seared tuna. My problem with the dish was that the pieces were too thick. The outside was seared but the inside was ice cold. Way too cold. Thinner pieces seared rare would have been a much better experience. The cream sauce was boring and I could only taste apple in the slaw…the fennel seemed non-existent. The serano in the potatoes was tame and did not seem to add much value. Overall a pretty blah experience.
We also tried the Cararon which was Procsciutto-wrapped jumbo shrimp served with red pepper mashed potatoes, sautéed artichokes, grilled asparagus, and peppers in a lemon caper butter sauce. I thought this one was better then the tuna but overall fairly average. In my opinion there was too much going on and the plate lacked focus. The shrimp and procsiutto were cooked well.
We skipped dessert and went right for the check.
Service was excellent at Café Ena. The server knew the menu and wine list well and was able to make good recommendations and pairings. Even though the restaurant was busy, we never waited a long time for anything. The wine selection is also really nice. I found the selections to be diverse, reasonably priced and worked well with the menu.
I think Café Ena is a good neighborhood restaurant. I had much higher expectations based on the number of times I have eaten at El Meson. Looking at how crowded it was, I would assume that the majority of the diners lived nearby and it is a convenient location. I don’t think I would go out of my way to dine there. Though I would be really happy to have them near my house….since the closest restaurant to me happens to be a Perkins.