January 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham

New El Asador offers steaks and elaborate Mexican fare

Cazuela De Mariscos comprises sauteed shrimp, salmon, mahi-mahi, scallops, mussels, calamari, lobster, onions and tomatoes. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

What is it about Mexican cuisine these days? While it has always been popular, there’s been a noticeable increase lately in places that serve it, as cantinas pop up in suburban locations as well as in the city, adding to an already impressive lineup.

The latest is in a modest two-story building on Springwells off I-75 south, across the street from the well-known Vince’s, a restaurant that has been drawing people to the old neighborhood for many years.

Chef/proprietor Luis Garza is giving people another reason to put Springwells on their map. He quietly opened El Asador Steakhouse a few weeks ago, featuring not only the expected tacos and quesadillas, but also more complicated dishes from his repertoire. He calls his style both modern and traditional, and he handles both with equal care. It’s obvious, though, that he especially likes to introduce those who’ve never gotten past tacos and enchiladas to dishes he feels are more indicative of true Mexican fare.

Garza is the chef who, while working at Andiamo Italia, wowed the staff and the owner with the dishes from his native cuisine that he prepared behind the scenes. They inspired Joe Vicari to open the first Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi and subsequently several more (now sold), spotlighting such dishes as mole gallina, chicken in an intense sauce of multiple chilies with a hint of chocolate and peanuts; shrimp stuffed with a blend of three cheeses in lobster cream sauce; and pork chops with adobo sauce.

You’ll find these same elaborate dishes, including made-at-the-table guacamole, in the much more modest setting of El Asador, along with the steaks Garza added to the menu because, as he says, there was no place in his southwest Detroit neighborhood to get a steak.

The steak lineup is typified by an 8-ounce sirloin with guajillo, ancho and chipotle butter sauce, served with a choice of rice or potato and a crisp little mix of greens in his subtle housemade vinaigrette, and a 10-ounce ribeye with poblano cream sauce. Sauces are applied subtly, and all of the entrees are nicely garnished. The requisite tortilla chips and salsa come to the tables first (there must be a law) and Garza’s two salsas are distinctive, one a mild roasted tomato and the other a habanero-sparked version served warm.

While the dining room is nondescript — he left it pretty much as it was in a previous incarnation, spending money on the kitchen instead of décor — it lets the quality of the food be the star of the show. Garza is committed to fresh ingredients and shops for them at least every other day. He’s helped out in the kitchen by his brother Homero and his mother, Maria.

Garza has many future plans for the restaurant. Besides acquiring a liquor license, he wants to update the building’s second floor for a private party room. And since the name of the restaurant, El Asador, means “the grill,” he will be doing the grilling outdoors on the big brick grill behind the building, where he also plans to add a patio. This is a work in progress, but a it has already caught the eye of a number of downtown foodies.

El Asador Steakhouse

1312 Springwells, Detroit

Call: (313) 297-2360

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.,

10 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Prices: Appetizers $6.99-$8.99,

soups and salads $2.99-$13.99,

entrees $9.99-$18.99

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Not yet

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Small attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

(313) 222-1475

Ribeye Steak Con Rajas is a char-grilled 10-ounce ribeye steak topped with ... (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
El Asador Steakhouse's Ysabella Martinez makes guacamole table-side for ... (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
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