Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mex, May 24, 2016

Last night, we were supposed to go to my aunt & uncle's for dinner. However, they had some kitchen weirdness and couldn't cook for us, at the last minute. My aunt suggested we meet in Bloomfield Hills, so I suggested Mex, a restaurant we'd passed a number of times and had wanted to try. Y'all, it was delicious! It's a very visually interesting (and loud) environment, with all kinds of neat, eclectic touches. It's kind of a mix of shabby chic, industrial, and classic Mexican touches. One large wall is taken up with paint cans, painted to represent a pair of (presumably dancing) legs. A smaller wall holds shelves of hot sauces, where patrons can browse for the perfect choice to enhance their meals. The large room is additionally divided by half walls with ropes going to the ceiling---this was particularly intriguing to Wee Boy. The patio has high walls painted a vivid green somewhere between lime and avocado and looks like someplace Frida Kahlo might have sipped on pulque.

Our waiter was very pleasant, but I found his menu advice to be rather peculiar. He was obsessed with amounts of food and seemed a bit bossy about the food. When my aunt, who has studied at the French Culinary Institute, interned for Daniel Boulud, run her own very popular restaurant in Ann Arbor, makes & sells what are often called the best baguettes in Ann Arbor, and is writing a cookbook, asked about what the best dishes were, he showed her which section of the menu would be too much food for her and which would be a reasonable amount. He even went into great detail, saying, "If you haven't eaten lunch, you might want something from this part of the menu. If you ate lunch, that'll be too much and you should order from here." It was kind of bizarre, frankly. She was a great deal more interested in which dishes are particularly tasty, rather than what size portions she might get. His assumption that she wouldn't have much of an appetite seemed insulting, too. When she ordered the ceviche and asked if she could add just one taco (they come in twos, with the option to add a third) to her order, he told her the taco would be too much. She was unconvinced. He told her she could order the taco if she ate her ceviche and decided she still wanted the taco. I bristled, but didn't say anything. I knew he'd be making an extra trip to the table with a taco later. When I ordered the coconut caipirinha for my wife, he was cautionary---"Does she love coconut? Because if she doesn't, she won't like it. It's made with coconut cream." I thought, "Um, why would she be ordering a coconut drink if she doesn't like it?" I assured him it would be just fine. She did end up disliking her drink, but only because the bartender was very heavy-handed with the cacha├ža. My Mex Mule (tequila instead of vodka) was fantastic!

While I didn't like being treated like a culinary imbecile (or, at the very least, a novice) when I write a food blog, cook a wide variety of things, and previously worked as a restaurant critic, the food was very good. The guacamole was fabulously creamy, the salsa & pico were full of flavor, and the chips were house-made. My aunt enjoyed her ceviche (which was not very big at all, although it was lovely and rested on a bed of hearts of palm & avocado salad, with plantains, grapefruit, and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup) and added a steak taco, which she also thought was very good. Jeannene had two steak tacos, with elote, the traditional Mexican street corn with a honey-lime crema (when talking about the menu, our waiter made sure to let us know that "wherever you see 'crema' on the menu, that just means 'sour cream'"---which may have been helpful to folks who had no familiarity with real Mexican food and asked what it meant, but felt really patronizing to me---the assumption that we wouldn't know what it is was insulting), cotija cheese, and chiles. I also had the elote, but chose one chorizo & potato taco and one shrimp taco. They were truly fabulous. My uncle had a scrumptious-looking chicken quesadilla.

When my aunt realized our bill had come before dessert (the waiter hadn't seemed inclined to give us any, but did offer. My wife declined before I had a chance to ask to see the desserts), she asked about it. I was intrigued by the avocado icebox pie, so she ordered that, along with the tres leches cake. Again, the waiter felt he had to explain. I politely nodded through his explanation, thinking, "Dude, I probably know more about tres leches than you do." She also asked what kind of coffee they serve (she specialized in excellent-quality teas at her restaurant, but is also a coffee connoisseur). The waiter assured us that the coffee is ground fresh, but gave us not a clue what actual kind of coffee it is. Despite the unnecessary dessert lesson and the fact that the very first dessert he mentioned, with a great pause as though he was assuming we would just delightedly order that, was fried ice cream, I greatly enjoyed the desserts. In fact, the cake was one of the best tres leches cakes I've had. The avocado icebox pie, which reminded me of a well-made mojito, was a refreshing, creamy custard redolent with lime and mint, on a pecan crust base. A perfect ending to the meal!

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