A wet burrito stuffed with meat is drizzled with sour cream. (Todd McInturf The Detroit News)
Fishbowl-size Margaritas, a witty decor spotlighting the color red from the napkins to the glittery crystal prisms on the chandeliers, and a menu of well-prepared Mexican dishes have given a fresh persona to the former Andiamo Lakefront Bistro.
The handsome decor includes a Diego Rivera-like mural, done by Andrzej Sikora, depicting the production of tequila from the agave to the final product. It's highly appropriate, since Rojo offers more than 100 tequilas from its handsome bar paralleling the dining room.
After a five-week renovation, the concept was unveiled two weeks ago, and even in the early going, it's easy to see that St. Clair Shores is embracing Rojo Mexican Bistro. After all, there's really nothing else like it in St. Clair Shores, and the waterfront location is especially appealing.
It's the third of the festive cantinas brought to us by the Andiamo restaurant group, and not the last. A fourth Rojo will open in the Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township in the near future. Each is individual in decor, although the Rochester and St. Clair Shores locales have been designed by Ron Rea, who has given each of those its own persona. And the menu is so extensive, it would take numerous visits to even scratch the surface.
Executive chef Luis Garza, who prepared Italian fare in restaurants for years before the Andiamo owners decided to spotlight his touch with his native food, has devised a menu that offers both the popular tortilla dishes and many that are less familiar. (Garza is hobbling around on crutches while recovering from injuries suffered in an auto accident, but that hasn't stopped him from coming to work.) The emphasis throughout the menu is on fresh ingredients and from-scratch preparation, whether it's tableside guacamole, a mahimahi taco with chipotle aioli dressing or camarones rellenos, shrimp stuffed with a delicate blend of Cotija, Chihuahua and asadero cheeses and subtly applied lobster cream sauce.
It's tough to wean the crowd away from the familiar and toward more upscale dishes in the sunny cuisine, and no Mexican restaurant would want to completely ignore such favorites as nachos and burritos. They are nicely done here and much more refined than the pile-on-the-cheese school of Mexican fare.
But there is much more to explore, including dishes such as mole de gallina, a chicken leg and thigh in a smoky sauce that blends the flavors of three chilies with a hint of chocolate and peanuts into a dark, intensely flavored mixture that enhances the moist and tender chicken.
It, like other entrees, comes nicely presented on outsize white china and includes a small portion of chopped lettuce and diced tomato, as well as housemade refried beans, rice and fresh, warm tortillas.
A simpler, but no less appealing, chicken dish is mesquite-grilled breast of chicken served with grilled fresh vegetables that include a heart of romaine and the chef's lightly roasted potatoes.
An outstanding appetizer (which also can serve as an entree) is lobster quesadilla — tender pieces of lobster in a blend of three light cheeses encased in a flour tortilla and served with a dab of the house guacamole, a light, lovely dish that is subtle and delicate.
The menu is so large that it is going to take a while to make a decision among the many choices that aren't found in the typical cantina, including some interesting salads and soups.
In the early going, the expected little glitches are still being ironed out. Don't be surprised if a guy carrying a ladder comes by the table. And the staff is not completely conversant with the new menu. Still, there's a notable enthusiasm among the waiters and bartenders as the place settles in to its new niche.
The guacamole is made fresh at the table.
After a five-week face-lift, the former Andiamo Lakefront Bistro is now a ... (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
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