After serving his native Cuban cuisine in downtown Detroit since 2009, Vicente Vasquez was ready for another challenge. He and his partners found it in Midtown, in space on the ground floor of a Wayne State parking deck just off Woodward on West Forest. This time they call the menu “a Latin Cuisine Tour,” and it is refreshingly different, taking inspiration from several countries from Spain to Venezuela.
Roberto Caceres, who oversees the kitchen at both Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine on Library Street and the new spot as well, and his son Roberto, the front-of-the-house man, are co-proprietors in the venture, along with Vasquez.
The dining room is dominated by a dramatic painting of a lady in red and her partner doing the tango and it sets the sophisticated tone of Bolero. There are no extraneous decor details to take away from the sleek and sophisticated setting of double-covered tables, polished parquet floors and understated woodsy colors.
The menu is refreshingly different and sticks to the Latin-American theme. And choices abound, from the list of a dozen tapas, ranging from shredded duck empanadas to deep-fried plantains with chicken, tomatoes and peppers and albondigas (meatballs made with a mixture of beef and pork in spicy tomato sauce and sprinkled with crumbled blue cheese). The tapas are generously portioned, making them sharable.
Our table loved the subtle yet assertive spiciness of the meatballs. And although paella, the national dish of Spain, is a specialty of the house, we opted instead to try three different entrees from among nine choices. My choice was camarones provenzal, large shrimp marinated in garlic butter and white wine and served on a bed of spinach. The other dishes we sampled included grilled salmon with lobster sauce and classic chicken and rice, both nicely prepared by the kitchen and served by a well-dressed staff.
Other tempting options were grilled Argentinian skirt steak and pork shanks marinated in herbs and red wine and served with white bean stew.
For dessert, what else but tres leches cake, the special occasion cake throughout Latin America, so called because it is finished with a drizzle of three kinds of milk, and it is a moist and delicious ending to a Latin dinner.
Many of the same selections are available at lunch, along with a list of sandwiches.
The bar is well stocked and includes a good wine list. Sangria is offered in white and red versions, by the glass or pitcher, and that has been the choice of a number of diners in the early going. And no, it is not just a summer drink.
Bolero is a handsome and well-run addition to the dining options in the city.
Bolero Latin Cuisine
51 W. Forest, Detroit
Call: (313) 800-5059
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Lunch tapas $10-$14, ceviche $12-$16, salads $12-$14, sandwiches $9-$11, entrees $14-$16; dinner tapas $10-$14, ceviche $12-$17, paella $25-$30, entrees $20-30, desserts $7.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar, with an emphasis on housemade sangria.
Noise level: Low
Wheelchair access: No barriers.
Parking: In the deck or surface lot across the street.
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding