I confess: I’ve fallen off the healthy yogurt-breakfast wagon. I’m gobbling sugar-dressed, deep-fried churros, those Spanish doughnut fingers, compounding my guilt by dipping them in a deep, dark chocolate sauce, just as I do in my favorite cafe in Madrid that’s been pandering to this particular addiction since the 1600s. Fortunately, they’re also on the take-out menu of Southwest’s Cafe Ena, which chef Hector Ruiz launched in 2007.
Here’s hoping it — and all of his other charming neighborhood cafes — make it through the pandemic that’s proving as lethal to the restaurant business as it is to their patrons. Fingers crossed.
Anyway: These gently-crisped, meltaway lengths of doughnuts — generously plus-sized (that’s what we do here in Minnesota), originally made a luscious finale to a recent take-away dinner, along with that midnight-dark flow of chocolate, which Hector cleverly abetted with a splash of rum ($6), although the menu’s promised mascarpone cream was a no-show.
From the list of starters ($8-$14), which ranges from guac to ceviche to tostones, I chose a trio of empanadas ($11) that celebrated Hector’s solid Parisian training in French technique. The dough wrapper proved ideally rich and flaky, far lighter than the usual Mexican version. Its seafood filling (or choose meat or veggie) clasped a tender shrimp or two amid diced veggies in a light cream sauce, to be dipped in an accompanying roasted-tomato salsa that’s hot, sharp and blessedly far from catsup-sweet. It overpowered the delicate seafood, but I’m guessing would fare well with the meat and veg options. The menu’s stated tomato-red onion relish was AWOL.
From the arroz quartet ($14-$18) — pollo, veg or seafood combos — I opted for the mariscos — shrimp, crab and calamari, dotting a bed of rice and bits of veggies in a savory, golden tomato-saffron sauce. The trio of sweet and chubby, nicely timed shrimp proved tasty; the ivory calamari tender and toothsome, too; the crab virtually absent, as far as I could see or taste — substituted, perhaps, by an unannounced addition of three mussels, two of which opened and proved sweet and true. Bay leaves made their presence known in ungainly, un-chewable chunks — overall, a comforting albeit unmemorable dish.
On to the entrees, $17-$22: beef or pork tenderloin tips in red wine sauce, seafood and chicken. I chose the chicken, Jamaican-style, hopping with a spicy curry-habanero sauce and fleshed out with bits of veggies and slippery mushrooms mingling with chicken nuggets and delivered with a side of white rice upon which to ladle the savory soup-stew.
Take-away wine and beer are available, too. The pressing question is, which bottles go with churros?