Anepalco is a hidden gem that serves up great Mexican food, but in a non traditional way. From the website http://www.anepalco.com:
Anepalco is a Mexican Cuisine Restaurant that combines traditional Mexican ingredients with modern French techniques.
I enjoy coming here for brunch, but have never been here for dinner. On Veterans Day, I met my friend Bonnie here at 5:00, right before a Ducks game. When you walk in, there’s an old Mexico romantic vibe, with splashed of bold red colors on the back of the chairs and on the pillows, a contrast to the dark, black wood of the furniture.
This feeling of admiration was short lived as soon as I sat down to read the menu. The sun was going down, making the room quite dark. The so-called romantic vibe turns into annoyance, as I had to use my cell phone as a flashlight feature to read my menu. There are fake candles located behind each table, but they are mounted quite firmly so you cannot move it. The restaurant didn’t provide any additional lighting on the table, or attempt to bring up the house light just a bit. The few lights above the room were too dim to use as reading light. Not impressed with the ambiance.
While trying to read the menu, we were given some hot breadsticks inside a canvas bag with an attached that read:
We’ve created something to open your palate…our house-made artisanal bread is paired with a delightful butter mixed with dry chilies.
The bread was piping hot, and tasted a little sweet. Reminded me a little bit of pizza dough, not breadsticks. At first glance, the butter looks like cheese dip. However, when you place your bread in the butter, you’ll find that it’s solid. The dry chilies added flavor to the butter, but it was not spicy at all.
While looking through the menu, I noticed that the prices for dinner is quite a bit more then for lunch or brunch. Anepalco is known for their chilaquiles. It is almost a given to order this dish if it is your first time.
What’s a chilaquiles? Mexican chilaquiles are strips of fried corn tortillas simmered in salsa, and served with cheese, eggs, or beans. Typically, old tortillas are used to make this dish, and served usually at breakfast or brunch. It is a good way to use up the old tortillas and old salsa, without having it go to waste.
On the website it said that their chilaquiles was available all day. However, I was told that was not the case, and on the dinner menu it was listed as “Arrachera”, which was a chilaquiles served with hanger steak and a poached egg. At brunch they offer an omelette style egg, but when I asked if I could change my egg to omelette style, I was told no.
After contemplating their menu, Bonnie and I decided to split two entrées: The Arrachera, and the Holy Mole, which is a braised short rib and mole. Mole (pronounced mole-lay) is a Mexican gravy made with chiles, nuts, spices, chocolate and seasonings. Some mole can be spicy, but most have just a hint of sweetness, since it is seasoned with Mexican chocolate.
The food took about twenty minutes and both dishes came out. Unfortunately, the room was so dark, I could not really tell how beautiful the dishes were, and I am sure the photos won’t do the food justice. The chilaquiles was delicious as always, but I still felt the price increase was not justified. For lunch, it’s about $10.00, but add a few strips of hanger steak, and the price jumps to $17.00 for dinner? I don’t think it is worth the $7 hike.
The Holy Mole was very tender and melted in my mouth. The menu description said it came with black eye peas, but they were more of a garnish than a side dish. This dish is 4 to 6 ounces of meat, and I wish the server told us that we would need to include a side dish to go with this meal.
Overall a delicious meal, but slightly disappointed in the price difference of the chilaquiles, just because they added steak. Aside from the prices, I am still not a fan of dining in the dark, so I’ll stick to Anepalco for lunch or weekend brunch, and skip this place for dinner.
Reservations suggested, and you can go to yelp.com to make it. Anepalco is located at 3737 W. Chapman, on the corner of Chapman and State College inside the ALO hotel.