Monday, March 5, 2012

Encore American Bistro

I’m pretty torn about Encore American Bistro in Winston-Salem. Does delicious food make up for terrible service? I’ll try anything twice, so I might need to make another visit before I write it off forever (like wearing puka shell necklaces. Never, ever again.)

Formerly the hipster hangout known as Cat’s Corner, and more recently the Mexican joint Rana Loca, this space has always been a peculiar one. The restaurant occupies a room of a building among art galleries and other stores, and the kitchen seems to be in the building’s lobby. The decorations are a bit sparse, though I hear it becomes quite the dance scene on Saturday nights.
My dinner companion and I were one of two couples in the entire restaurant. At approximately 7:30pm, I found this odd. I had just attended a movie where I enjoyed a glass of wine (my kind of theatre!) so I passed on the beverages and dove in straight for the breadbasket. Fresh Sunflower Poppy Seed Bread was presented with a delicious garlic and herb butter, as well as rosemary-infused olive oil. They were off to a great start.

…I spoke too soon. If you recall, we were one of two occupied tables in the entire restaurant and it took entirely too long to get our entrees. Like, ridiculously long. Being a fish taco snob (Las Estrellas in Winston-Salem has the most comparable fish tacos to the West Coast that I’ve found) I was intrigued by the Grilled Mahi-Mahi Tacos. Though the fish was served less than hot, it had a delicious marinade. Shredded cheese (unusual for fish tacos), finely chopped cabbage (like coleslaw, instead of the usual shredded cabbage), fresh pico de gallo and a chipotle-lime aioli filled the grilled tortilla. Except for the temperature of the dish, my taste buds were very pleased.

If I had to guess why it took so long to get our food and why my fish tacos cooled off, it’s because one of my sides was a piping hot cauldron of Macaroni and Cheese – I know, not the most likely pairing with fish tacos, but it’s hard to resist every restaurant’s description of “The Ultimate Mac & Cheese” – none of which hold a candle to my mom’s though. Seriously. However, I was impressed with this cheesy concoction. It wasn’t the processed, orangey cheese you sometimes get in restaurants (not bashing on Velveeta by any means!!!), but instead it had a nice mixture of American, cheddar and ricotta cheeses, with a slightly crunchy topping. My second side was Sautéed Spinach, which had a nice, salty flavor.

Though the food rocked, our server didn’t come by to check on us or offer us drink refills - maybe he was mad we just stuck with water? We sat with empty plates long before we flagged him down for the bill. And there were never more than two tables occupied the entire time we were there. As for the restaurant’s future, hopefully the food will speak for itself, but with service as poor as that, I’m not too eager to return.

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