Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Si Senor

Mexican Bar and Grill
227 Arnold Crossroads Ctr.
Arnold, Mo.
On The Web

There's a lively, vocal and active local FaceBook group I belong to called Jeffco411 that occasionally posts a link to this fine site. This week Angel and I were struggling to come up with something different to try. I had an idea. Mexican, but not the ones we've been to already. So I posted a note on Jeffco411:
"Eat and Critique! Is looking to review the best Mexican restaurants in Jefferson County. Where should we go?
P.S. we've already reviewed Los Portales in Hillsboro, several times.
To my mild surprise and delight, there were about 125 replies in the first 24 hours.
Scrolling scientifically down the list, one place started to be a standout.
This one. Not by a lot, but those posting about this place seemed more articulate and better looking than most of the others. Yes, being attractive will get my attention. I never said that this operation was a democracy, or fair, or unbiased. I set my own standards here and rule over the site with an iron fist, a velvet-y, handsome iron fist.

The Place:
Since this was in Arnold, we invited Adam to join, he agreed. He lives in South St. Louis County and works in Arnold, so this was less of a drive for him than us. It's located in one of that city's many, many shopping center. Arnold is Jefferson County's largest city. It's location at the northeast corner make it basically a suburb of St. Louis. I've mentioned before that I don't particularly like Arnold, but that's mostly because of the often very heavy traffic and confounding intersections. They do have a lot of nice places to eat and shop. So as long as Angel drives, I can tolerate it.
Just as we entered, the staff was finishing off a singing, clapping Happy Birthday tribute to some snot nosed kid. Adam and I looked at each other, his eyes wide. (see the post about Texas Roadhouse a few weeks back and you'll see why.) I decided to keep an open mind though, for at least a little longer. I wanted some enchiladas.
On the inside, the place was brightly and boldly painted and mural-ized floor to ceiling. Colorful parrots, lizards throughout, even on the booths, chairs and tables. It was quite busy as well, in terms of people. Nearly every table filled to capacity with families, groups of seniors, and just about every kind of person you can imagine. There was a buzz, a  din if you will, but not really too bad. It barely drowned out the Mexican music playing faintly in the overhead speakers. We were seated at the very front, next to a window.
We were greeted by a handsome young man named 'Carlos' if his name tag was to be believed. Very gracious and polite, he asked about drinks just as the chips and salsa were delivered by another handsome young man. The entire staff were in neat black shirts and they all looked busy, competent and efficient.
There were TV's on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, all muted. Golf, some kind of golf game was underway. In my mind the only thing more excruciatingly boring than golf on TV is the actual game itself. My in-laws watch a lot of TV golf, they even play golf. It is the one and only thing I don't care for about my in-laws. . . lets just leave it at that.
The Food:
The chips were perfect. The salsa, beautifully, refreshingly fresh with a slight, but noticeable sweat inducing bite to it. Not overpoweringly hot, just right on that narrow edge between pleasure and discomfort. You know the sensation, right?
We gobbled them down, all three of us love this part of a Mexican meal.
Carlos returned with our drinks, one tea and two Diet Dr. Peppers. He carefully took our orders making sure and rechecking that he had it right. His accent had a thickness to it but we managed just fine. I'm currently learning to speak a foreign language myself, I know how difficult it can be, the nuances and oddly shaped syllables. The answer to your question is of course, 'Icelandic.'
Not really a handy language to know, there are only about 300,000 native speakers of it and almost all of them also speak English.
This was not helpful with Carlos, I got the impression that he was not Icelandic. My perfectly practiced "Hvað segir þú gott?" just bounced right off of him.

I'd researched the menu beforehand so the choice was pretty much made already. Angel and Adam didn't struggle long either.
Me: Combo; one chicken enchilada and two beef flautas. The combo came with beans, rice and a 'corn cake'. I ordered the flautas specifically so I could say 'flautas'* out loud and write it several times. It's not what you think. Flautas is Spanish for 'flute'. It is a wheat wrap rolled into a long cylinder shape, filled with. . . something, then fried.
Adam: Chipotle Chicken Chimichanga.
Angel: Steak and shrimp. This was weird and surprising. On Saturday I'd commandeered the kitchen and prepared us a five course dinner. Grilled steak and shrimp, garlic toast, salad and roasted potatoes. She loved it, there was even enough left over for her to have steak and shrimp for Sunday lunch as well.
This was to be her third steak and shrimp meal in a row. I guess I'd really dialed in on her tastes. . .
Then the Si Senor staff made a mistake. Angel's plate was delivered in just a few minutes.
Have you ever gone to lunch or dinner with people from work and you all order but the food comes out in incomplete batches? Someone, usually me, is stuck sitting there at a blank spot on the table while everyone else politely watches, as their lobsters start to approach room temperature waiting for every one else's food to arrive. . .
Well, that's what happened here. Angel's plate arrived then, for about five or more minutes, nothing else. Fortunately for Angel we're all familiar family so she went ahead and un-apologetically dug right in. Adam and I didn't mind, we just wanted our food. Still it was a notable gaff, though not a fatal one.
One could say that the meals were worth the wait, because they were very, very good.
The chicken inside the enchilada was lightly spiced and quite moist. Usually at Mexican joints the bulk-cooked and steamer-warmed shredded meat ends up being quite dry. Not here. The light coating of enchilada sauce made me want more of it, a gallon or so would have been good. To my surprise and giggly delight, the flautas was quite tasty. The beef was also lightly spiced and quite smoky tasting. A very good little finger food. As always, I chopped up my enchilada and stirred it around into the cheesy beans and rice. I love that combination, when it is prepared right, and this was. Once again they'd held off on overdoing it. They let the beans and rice speak for themselves without going all Taco-Bell with the seasonings. The corn cake, a mush of corn meal with actual sweet kernels embedded in it was quite good as well.
There was absolutely nothing I did not like about the meal.
Angel too was quite impressed. "They grilled the broccoli instead of just steaming it." And "The shrimp is beautifully spiced."
Adam didn't have to say much, I know when he likes and doesn't like things. He loved this. "The chicken is very good." He even sawed off a chunk to let me try. Yep, he was right.
"I didn't share my shrimp." Angel said, unnecessarily.
There was that one and only one misstep. Staggered serving time. Easily fixable, but it would be annoying if it turned into a regular occurrence.
Angel said she'd already decided what to order next time. The seafood soup. She had seen it on the menu but passed over it for the same stuff she'd had twice before in less than 24 hours. Someone else had ordered the soup and she saw it delivered, long crab legs dangling out the side of the bowl.
The food itself was really, really good. I hear they make a pretty good margarita as well.
Now about the price. There was some mention on the Facebook group about Si Senor being a bit pricey. Well, compared to some of the other Mexican restaurants in the area, I suppose that it was. However, at forty nine bucks for three meals, it's cheaper than the popular chain places like Applebee's or Ruby T's or Olive Garden. The restaurant was very clean, the ingredients were all fresh and the staff was well trained and polite. Some of the local Mexican places are essentially dingy dives with pretty drinks. This place worried about its food, they didn't just pop open some cans and fry down some ground beef saturated with powdered taco seasoning.
This was much, much better than that. They've set the bar pretty high for a very reasonable price. In the coming months other places that were recommended will be visited, I'd have to say though, they are going to have to really impress me to beat Si Senor.

*Flautas. You need permanently juvenile male brain parts to giggle at this. In case you don't get it 'flautas' looks and sounds like the word 'flatus' which is a fancy word for 'stomach' gas.  You know. . . farts.

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