Tried out this new mexican restaurant last night with a couple friends in the old 4th Street Rose location.
Let me first say that this place was BUSY. They don't accept reservations so we ended up waiting about an hour and 15 minutes for our table. Although we had no interest in doing so, we spent this time sipping beers at OJ's next door. Once there finally was a table ready, it turned out to be a little lounge table with backless stools on the one side. I politely mentioned that I'd rather not eat dinner off a coffee table and the friendly young hostess lady managed to secure us a real table about 15 minutes later. So we ordered our first round of classic margs and by the time they finally arrived one of my friends mentioned that we had already invested over 2 hours in this Anejo endeavour! For the record the margs were pretty dang good.
I never judge a new restaurant too harshly in the first month but I will say they are definitely going through some teething issues with the staff. They had about 4 people working behind the bar and couple of what appeared to be managers roaming around but we only saw our waitress once in the first 35 minutes of our dinner. On to the foods....
About 40 minutes in we finally received a bowl of chips for our molcajete guacamole which was to be prepared tableside. 10 minutes later a guy showed up and whipped it together. It was actually quite enjoyable but my friend once again pointed out that we had now invested almost 3 hours to get our first bite of food. Oh well, nothing else to do this evening.
At this point I had indulged in quite a few chips and handful of drinks so I decided to keep my dinner order pretty simple. I opted for the tres taos....one short rib, one pork adobo, one crispy red snapper. All 3 were of decent size came served in a flour tortilla with some cilantro and a jalapeno. On the side was a trio of salsas.....pico de gallo, a red minced tomato salsa, and a salsa verde. The tacos were OK. There was absolutely nothing wrong with them, but they were just fairly bland. The pork had a slight smokiness from the chipotles but nothing more. The shortrib had very little seasoning and had no sweet/sour/spice or anything else to make it taste like something. The snapper was actually my favourite and was crispy fried to perfection. The salsas were, I hate to say it, very pedestrian. I've spent a fair amount of time in Mexico learning how to make authentic mexican fare and you would be laughed out of business if you presented these watery little concoctions anywhere south of the American border. I know, I know....gotta cater to the wimpy North American palette to make money (I'm not so sure about this).
Overall, it was a very vibrant place and we had a good time but Anejo fell short of delivering any kind of authentic Mexican experience in terms of their cuisine. That being said, there are a number of proper entrees on the menu that I was simply not in the mood to try last night. I give them credit for making a genuine effort to provide some real mexican dishes and it seems like the folks in charge really do care about making it a good experience. I'm sure they'll improve with time as they make adjustments to the menu and get the staff sufficiently trained. If all else fails, at least they have a MASSIVE tequila list!
I gave Anejo another chance as my friend really wanted to check it out for lunch.
We started with an order of guacamole. $14 for a molcajete full of $2 worth of ingredients. I could honestly care less about the the novelty act of having it made table side. Fairly good guac aside from the fact that they use too much raw garlic and it sticks with you long after the meal is over.
For lunch I had the tortilla soup and a pork taco. The soup was fairly good albeit pretty small for $9. Mild in flavour and had a rich silky texture. The taco was about as basic as it gets. The 3 salsas they serve with their tacos really don't do anything for me. The pico de gallo includes tiny cubes of cucumber or zucchini and almost no chilli; very bland. The red picassa salsa is the spiciest and includes almonds if I'm not mistaken. This one has a strange bittersweet flavour.....not really my thing I suppose. The salsa verde would be my favourite of the bunch although it's certainly nothing to write home about. My friend ordered the sizzling beef tenderloin molcajette with nopales cactus. Although it looked fantastic, he said it was fairly bland and would probably not order again.
All in with tip, we payed almost $70. That is with no booze, no soft drinks and no desert. Still water only. For that price I can't help but think I could have had a spectacular lunch at one of Calgary's best restaurants.
I went to Anejo with a couple of friends on November 1 (Dia de los muertos) and sat at the bar. We waited about 10 minutes in the outer vestibule for our spots to open up which was quite awkward (the doors to the restaurant proper were clsoed and there was no place to sit while waiting). The service was extremely friendly, the margaritas were some of the best I have ever had and the food was really good. My dining partner and I described it as North American Mexican - I find El Charrito Taqueria to be truer to the Mexican I ate in south-eastern Mexico but the dishes we had were an "upscale" version and very flavourful. Prices are pretty typical for trendy new spots in Calgary: ~$13 for guacamole (1.5 avocados) seemed a bit pricey but it did come with unlimited tortilla chips and $20 for 6 tacos filled both of us up. The multiple margaritas probably helped with our satiety. Did I mention the margaritas?
Thank You for your in depth review! I have yet to try this restaurant that is so close to home for me. I have walked past several times with the intention of going in for dinner but each time the place looked packed and I haven't been up for waiting for a table or sitting at a pub style table for dinner. I totally agree with your comment about cutting a new restaurant some slack during their teething stages. I hope they work out the kinks as I would still like to give them a try. I am a little disappointed that you could not give a rave review about the flavours of the food though. I was hoping to hear that this was a place that I absolutely must try. I'd like to hear other peoples experiences as well if anyone else has had a chance to go please post!