Photos by Aaron Fenster
Fans of El Meson will be delighted to discover Cafe Ena, which opened last week at 46th and Grand in south Minneapolis. It's owned by Hector Ruiz and Erin Ungerman, who also own El Meson, and named after the couple's young daughter. The family resemblance is undeniable, but there are differences. Prices are just a notch higher at Cafe Ena, and while El Meson concentrates on the Caribbean, Ena looks to Mexico and South America for inspiration.
Ena has all the same charms as its sister: lively flavors, imaginative preparation, colorful presentation. The congrito salad is typical: ample quantities of crab, tossed with fresh romaine, diced mango and cucumber. I was less impressed with the queso fundido: it's a sort of Mexican saganiki without the flames and opa, but I enjoyed everything else we sampled. Other starters range from arepas, the traditional corn cakes from Venezuela and Colombia, prepared either with shredded chicken or chili con crema; to chile en hogada, a roasted poblano pepper filled with ground beef, raisins and almonds, and served with a walnut apple sauce.
Entree prices range from $15.95 for the lomo (stuffed pork loin), chicken Negril (chicken breast in Jamaican habanero sauce), or pabellon criollo (Venezuelan-style beef stew), to a five-peppercorn crusted filet mignon ($25.95). An ample assortment of seafood dishes (most priced at $17.95) is also offered, including oven-roasted halibut over a mofongo of yucca, and atun, coriander-crusted tuna served over a hominy red pepper cake. Garlic lovers will be pleased with the camarones al Ajillo, a generous serving of large shrimp in a spicy cascabel garlic sauce. I also liked the corvina, a firm-fleshed white fish steamed in a banana leaf wrapper, which seals in much of the moistness. For dessert, don't miss the flan, a classic version done to perfection. There's not much on the menu for vegetarians, but a note promises that the chef will be happy to prepare vegetarian entrees on request.
Except for a couple of Spanish cavas, the wine list is all from the Mexico and South America, including a good selection of Argentine and Chilean wines, and some unusual Mexican reds from L.A. Cetto.
Cafe Ena, 4601 Grand Ave, Minneapolis,. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday; open for lunch starting Wednesday, May 16..