Cafe Ena and King’s

One of these past Mondays, B invited me out to King’s Wine Bar. It was a peaceful summer evening and I was supposed to turn him down, but I couldn’t — and he wasn’t supposed to ask me out, but he did. We couldn’t resist. It seems the only problem between us is how selflessly we act toward one another.

As we drove to King’s, anticipating another dinner together, something enticing caught the corner of my eye. It was Cafe Ena, humming seductively on the corner of 46th and Grand. I didn’t know it was there, and the unassuming neighborhood location surprised me. The whole place just buzzes. It’s in an old brick grocery with a plant-strewn patio, vibrant purple mosaic-like sign and awning, and an homage to Frida Kahlo gracing the door. In the split second it took to register its many charms, I had the insistent taste of red meat and Malbec in my mouth and South American romance on my mind.

But we were going to King’s, recently voted best wine bar. We took a seat by the window and looked through the menu in the quiet Monday air. We couldn’t find anything we wanted. From the small plates, the scallops looked good, but $13.95 for three seemed expensive, and the entrees didn’t seem special enough for the wine, or maybe for our mood. We passed on the food and settled in with flights of wine, red for me and white for him.

In a quiet corner full of setting sunlight, we read the descriptions of all eight glasses out loud, alternately taking a sip of each.

“This is what I’ve learned about wine,” I said, giving him my Malbec and French wine at the same time. “French wine tastes like gum.”

“Or like formaldehyde,” he said. “Try this.” He gave me the glass of New Age white, a total charmer, usually served on the rocks with a slice of lemon, like a South American aperitif.

We emptied our glasses as we sorted through the bigger questions at hand, happy to be saving our appetite for other things.

“We may be tipsy, but I think it’s safe to cross the street,” I said, leading us to Cafe Ena, where we got a perfect table in the corner of the beautiful dining room. The ultra-charming server came by and chirped hello, telling us Monday is half-price bottle of wine.

“You know what that means,” B said, ordering a bottle of Famiglia Meschini Malbec, made by a family from Minnesota who happens to run a winery in their spare time. I admired his daring move.

The perfectly poised server seemed to be smiling along with us, making me want to blush. He said the beef and the scallops dishes are very popular. “Let’s get those,” I said, “but we have to order guacamole, too.”

Am I glad we did. This impressive structure was among the best guacamole I’ve had, with fresh avocado, yellow and red tomatoes, red onion, roasted tomato salsa, micro-cilantro, and homemade chips.

The Argentine steak (bife de chorizo) came smothered with gorgonzola, with the garlic herb fries, sauteed artichokes, asparagus, and red peppers drizzled with chimichuri. The steak was well prepared, but I had to wonder why it was hiding so completely under all that strong cheese. It seemed to add too much Midwestern sensibility to the restaurant’s sexy Latin fusion.

The scallops (conchas) are crusted with cardamom and coriander and served with coconut risotto, sauteed spinach, and pineapple salsa in a lime beurre blanc. This meal surpassed my expectations. The bold flavors perfectly complement one another and make your tastebuds soar.

As we ate, I thought about how the exterior of Cafe Ena perfectly embodies what you find inside. It promises great food and romance, but not in a stereotypical way. Cafe Ena is full of a European sense of romance that infuses all of life, not just the special occasions between two people. I thought I’d tell B something I’d been meaning to share for quite awhile.

“You know, one of the many things I like about you is that you know a good thing when you see it,” I said. It seems pretty clear that I do, too.

Cafe Ena on Urbanspoon


2 thoughts on “Cafe Ena and King’s

  1. Trent Pearson

    Tried CafĂ© Ena last night for the first time, 7:30 reservation. Server was darling and friendly and we were THRILLED with the menu. Recommendations: House red wine is Italian (a simple and delicious choice)The Chile en Nogada appetizer is surprising and delicious, with just enough heat from the pepper and the sauce, filled with a fascinating blend of raisins, walnuts and ground beef. Crunchy, salty sweet– unique and AMAZING.Carne a la Brava= a huge plate full of goodness. The steak (incredibly tender and juicy) and chorizo (small amount,s palatable for even a non-meat lover) found perfect harmony with the demi glaze, and the risotto brought a light, fresh creaminess to the heaviness of the meat. Balanced and hearty. Red Snapper crusted with pistachio nuts and avocado leaves= flaky flavorful fun. Dip your fork in the lemon caper butter, then pick up a piece of fish (make sure you get some of the crust) and get ready to sing. The tomato yellow pepper relish is a great palate cleanser after enjoying every single bite on this plate. Order a cappuccino to give yourself a few minutes before dessert. Next, ORDER THE CHURROS. Nothing sophisticated, a little messy even. They are crunchy and doughy, they melt in your mouth. Take a bite of a plain churro. Sip the cappuccino. Take a tiny forkful of the cinnamon ice cream (you can almost feel granules of ground cinnamon and sugar– a sensory delight), take another bite of churro, another sip of cappuccino. Next drizzle chocolate ganache over the churro, take a bite and another sip of the cap quickly after. At this point my eyes closed and no one else in the world existed, it was simply the churro and I dancing in heaven. Enjoy!

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