Lofted above the restaurant is the tequila library, a fancy and plush bar that specializes in tequila. In the corner of the room is a skull-laden couch area for you to kick back and enjoy your drinks. We were brought up here first to do a tequila tasting, something I was trepidatious about given that I've never enjoyed tequila "shots" and I haven't had one since sophomore year of college (live and learn). The restaurant manager and resident tequila expert Gabe gave us a run down of the history of tequila.
The two that we sampled were the Herradura silver and the El Mayor extra anjeo. The Herradura silver looked like clear grain alcohol and tasted to me exactly like what I remembered about straight tequila: a burning kick. While I wasn't a fan of this on it's own, paring it with a cinnamon dusted orange made it palatable, but still not something I would seek out. On the other hand, I learned that there are some types of tequila out there that I do enjoy! The El Mayor extra anejo was brown like a whiskey, smooth, and had notes of caramel and vanilla. I could some of these older tequilas in the future of this scotch-drinking girl.
Our dinner started off with classic guacamole and a mango-papaya guacamole. The classic was kind of boring and was lacking something. Because it didn't have chunks of tomatoes or onions, and the avocado was really smooth, it reminded me of a paste. I prefer chunky guacamole which is why I really enjoyed the mango-papaya options. The chunks of fresh fruit added needed sweetness and a variety in the texture.
Accompanying the guacamole were two queso options, chorizo and chile. The chorizo queso was solid, although I wished that the meat had a bit more spice and kick to it. I guess because I was craving something spicy I really liked the chile queso. The roasted peppers added a really interesting heat to the cheese, but after eating a bunch my mouth got too hot and I had to stop. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I like hot things.
Speaking of hot things, next up was their version of jalapeno poppers. But this isn't the stuff that you get frozen/deep-fried at a bar. These were handmade applewood-smoked bacon wrapped jalapeños stuffed with jack cheese and served with a cilantro ranch. The batter was crisp and not too greasy, but this dish was so hot that no amount of ranch dressing could cool my mouth down. The bacon added a nice roundness to the heat, but all I could think about while eating this was Hot Chicken. I couldn't even finish one pepper. One whole glass of water and an avocado later, I was ready to move on with the meal.
Quesadillas came next and I opted to try the shrimp and mango version with banana, chile, and cilantro crema. This might be my favorite dish of the evening. The shrimp was nicely cooked and still very soft. The mango (which I love) and banana (with which I have a complicated relationship) really worked well to add some tropical sweetness to this dish. What I would recommend is not using the sauce provided, or just using it sparingly. It really overpowered the delicate nature of the shrimp.
Next I tried a bunch of tacos (short rib, grilled shrimp, cilantro lime steak, and tequila lime chicken). I enjoyed the short rib tacos the most. The meat was cooked till fork-tender and seasoned in a way that really stood out. The pickled peppers that are served with it added that vinegar kick that just makes me fall more in love with Mexican food each time. The shrimp tacos were very simple; solid but not remarkable. I think this is a dish they can get more creative with. The steak was very flavorful, spicy and left a really nice taste on the palate. The meat was good quality; tender and not chewy, because no one likes a chewy taco. The chicken was just "meh." I personally don't enjoy chicken as much as other meats and I found this chicken to be kind of dry.
For dessert we tried the tres leches and the flan. Tres leches is one of my favorite desserts and Saint Anejo did this justice. The cake was creamy, smooth, and soft without being plagued by the usual tres leches problem: So moist it's soggy to the point of imploding on itself. I love flan but I wasn't a fan of this version. It was really stiff and didn't jiggle or wiggle like flan is supposed to. It was really dense and the flavor wasn't anything special. I'd skip the flan and save the calories.
As a bonus, Chef Jason Slimak brought out mini churros with house made dulce de leche. These were prefect and reminded me of ordering churros out of an old guy's shopping cart in New York (that's a good thing!). They were crispy on the outside but really soft on the inside. And the tasty dulce de leche didn't hurt either.
Chef Jason came around, talked to our group, and was really friendly. We talked about our love of all the "nasty" stuff, like tripe and tongue. I really think that Saint Anejo can bring some more of that traditional/authentic flavor to their menu, but do it in the classy M. Street style, so that people who would normally shy away would be roped in by the creativity.
Before coming to Saint Anejo, I had previously written off up-scale Mexican places. I had been to a few in Nashville, New York and elsewhere and I was never THAT impressed. I always came back to the small taco truck or the Mom and Pop place. Saint Anejo gives the diner something different, a fabulous tequila list, a fully stocked bar, a trendy atmosphere and good food. Things that the drive through taco places on Nolensville (which are still REALLY good) just don't have. The prices are also more expensive than most Mexican food, so there might be some sticker shock. What I can say is that the quality of the food, the service, and the ambiance is top-notch, so factor that all together when you get your check.
I would recommend coming here for a first date, girls night out, pre-concert dinner/drinks or late night snacks. Or just have a really nice after-work drink at the bar.
**This experience was complimentary but all opinions are real and 100% my own. I would like to thank the nice people at M. Street who keep making this little local blogger feel like a celebrity- Jennifer, Jamie and Gabe.**