But the innovative spirit of Zimmer's Joy America Cafe lives on in Robbin Haas' new restaurant at AVAM, Encantada. The decor is a bit all over the place, with large areas of black and white patterning punctuated by bright colors and examples of the "outsider" art found all over the rest of the museum. It's wild and fun, and somehow it all works. But don't let the room distract you from the menu, which is focused on small plates. Before you say, "What's innovative about that? They're everywhere!" let me add that the small plates are primarily vegetarian, and some are vegan. And the dishes are so interesting and flavorful that you will not miss the meat one bit.
And if you do, there are a handful of dishes that do have meat. Because there will be people who wander into the restaurant and not expect it to be so vegetable-forward.
|Menu as of July 8, 2015. Click to enlarge.|
The next dish we tried was potato croquettes. Some of the little potato balls had a fairly smooth mashed potato filling and others had chunkier bits of tuber, which I liked. The rich and tangy saffron aioli was a nice accompaniment, and the dish was visually appealing. So much better than the tater tots that have infested menus recently.
One of the non-vegetarian items recently added to the menu is oysters on the half shell. These were Malpeques, from Prince Edward Island. topped with a green tomato granny smith mignonette, and cilantro oil. Also a fennel flower, which added an unexpected bit of crunchy texture. Pretty good, very fresh, the hint of cilantro was interesting.
First, the sprouts. They were fried and had both crunchy (less-cooked) and crispy (more-cooked) textures, with tiny sweet red grapes and lots of toasted pine nuts, all tossed in a figgy syrup. The dish could have used a bit of salt, but was otherwise fine. One can never go wrong ordering brussels sprouts at any restaurant owned by Robbin Haas that has Melanie Molinaro in the kitchen (try them at Birroteca and Nickel Taphouse if you get a chance - both excellent).
At this point, Encantada had only been open for a week. Not all of the dishes were perfect, but most were very very good. There certainly is a ton of variety on the menu, with both bold and subtle flavors, meat and non-meat dishes, and even a trompe l'oeil plate. And while (I think) the menu isn't the most helpful, your server will definitely be able to guide you into selecting dishes that will make up an interesting and balanced meal.
Encantada is the fourth restaurant in the third floor space at AVAM (if you count the Gjerde brothers' incarnation of Joy America Cafe as a separate entity from the original), and we hope it will be around for a while.
Posted on Minxeats.com.