The Zen concept of Enso is a circle, which allows the mind to be free in order to let the body and spirit simply create. Is this the basis for Enso’s eclectic and exciting menu, or an invitation for us to come in and have a wonderful dining experience? If it goes both ways, Enso is a very special place.
When you get to Enso, it is a juxtaposition of experience. You walk into a suburban strip mall and enter a big city supper club. Enso’s ambiance has a sophistication that one is hard-pressed to find in the area, yet it has natural warmth as well. Water features and dramatic lighting play off of granite and wood. The bar area is gorgeous. It is a long, sleek slab of rock begging you to belly-up for a signature martini or a glass of wine. And when the warmer weather hits, there is a fantastic outdoor patio to enjoy Enso’s food, drink and live entertainment. Starting now, there is music Wednesday through Friday evenings. My husband and I relaxed to a wonderful jazz quartet as we dined. We even got up and slow danced as we were one of the last people to leave that evening.
Nothing is more fun than opening up a menu and seeing unusual approaches to traditional favorites. A good portion of Enso’s menu is dedicated to different types of appetizers. There are “hand-helds” that offer such things as scallop sliders and lobster corn dogs. There are three types of gourmet French fries that have accompanying sauce selections that are completely off the map: Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo, Horseradish Aioli, Smoky Blue Cheese, etc.
My dining partner and I went for two other appetizers. I chose the General Tso’s Chicken Roll, which is what they define as “American sushi.” When I first bit into it I was so surprised at how fresh and light it was. The rice had a sweet tang, and the tapioca rice paper was delicate. The mandarin oranges played perfectly against the creamy spice of the guacamole, and the chow mien noodles added a great texture. The spouse opted for a “shared” plate called Siberian Nachos. They were beautifully crisp wontons topped with smoked salmon and wasabi crème. My partner loved his fancy nachos so much he bemoaned that no bagel and lox would ever suffice again. I might point out that he did not share very well.
The dinner options at Enso are pretty expansive. There are steaks, chops, seafood, pastas and more. All come with a cup of soup or a house salad. Many have a Greek twist to them, but not all. Friends have raved about the Miso Orange-glazed Salmon and most of the steaks on the menu. I seriously eyeballed the Lobster Mac and Cheese. In the end, however, we decided to go with two of Enso’s signature dishes. I chose the Hickory Pork Osso Bucco and my dining partner went with the Bacon-wrapped, Crab-stuffed Shrimp with a Lemon Basil Crema. Both were served with Asparagus Risotto and vegetables. The Osso Bucco, a char-crusted pork shank in a Wild Mushroom Demi-glace, was recommended by two staff members. They did not steer me wrong. My first bite had me closing my eyes and moaning. It was too good to be embarrassed. The meat was “spoon” tender (I borrowed that from the bartender) and caramelized with a sauce that was dark, rich and complex. And the risotto! It was creamy and lush with a ton of parmesan and perfect, tender-crisp bites of asparagus. It may have been my favorite part.
My husband enjoyed his shrimp. They were big, plump shrimp paired with soft crab stuffing all held together in a bacon-wrapped hug. The Lemon Basil Crema was an interesting addition. It was cool and sharp and added an interesting balance to the salty bacon. It should be mentioned that somehow my partner in crime got hold of a piece of Spinach Pie. He loved it so much that he wanted to buy all the restaurant had left. Apparently one of the owners’ mother makes it homemade. If she would have been there, I think my husband may have left me. Instead we left with a huge “to-go” box.
However, before we finished, I insisted we get some dessert. I usually get so excited when I am trying a restaurant I can’t make it to the end. We opted for the Warm Cinnamon and Sugar Donut Bites and the Mini Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches. The donuts were so indulgent. They were dense, heavy and warm with tons of crispy, crunchy cinnamon sugar that got all over our fingers. There were two sauces to dip into, a Chocolate and Crème Anglais. What made the ice cream sandwiches special was the fudge sauce. It had a punch of coffee I did not see coming.
All in all, Enso rocked. The food was sophisticated but not overly fancy. Everything was full with flavor and artfully served. The place is beautiful, and it is not ridiculously expensive. The entrees are about $20 on average. The lunch menu, which offers up selections like gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and Kobe beef burgers, as well as many other sandwich and salad choices, runs at about $10.
Enso is a great addition to the Capital area. So come and let your spirit spin in a circle of culinary happiness. For more information visit www.ensonow.com
Tags: Enso, Restaurant Review
Colette Evangelista sells certified organic, non-toxic beauty, health, baby and home products at www.healthandhopeorganics.com
. Twenty percent of her profits go to Ascending Above Autisim, a charity that helps parents pay for autism treatment.