After visiting Saint Anejo, new Mexican restaurant in Winter Springs, I was reminded of the obscure 2006 movie “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” starring Robert Downey Jr. As far as I can tell, there was no Saint Anejo in the firmament of the canonized. At least not one listed at Catholic Online, which appears to have a rather exhaustive roster of the righteous. There are more than 750 just under the A’s, but no Anejo.
Apparently, it’s a reference to tequila, anejo being the designation of the oldest aged varieties. In my experience, tequila drinking has seldom led to saintly behavior, but there you go.
So then, Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen + Tequileria (ah, now the name makes sense). It’s the latest attempt to bring something more than chain dining to the Winter Springs/Oviedo area. One of the previous tries also involved a restaurant that used a plus sign in its name. Remember South + York? This restaurant, from the same group that operates Agave Azul, another tequila-centric restaurant in the area of Universal Orlando, even aims at offering a more upscale Mexican experience. Not that this is anything close to fine dining, but it is more pleasant than your typical stereotypical Tex-Mexery.
It’s even more Mex than Tex, though far from traditional Mexican cooking (any restaurant that lists fajitas on its menu gives up some of its Mexican cred). Still, I must say that I liked what I sampled much more than I did when I visited Agave Azul a few years ago.
I was delighted to see Pozole Verde on the menu. Why so few Mexican and even Southwestern restaurants offer this soup is a mystery. Pozole is hominy, dried corn kernels that are treated with an alkali and become big puffed-up musket-sized pellets. They’re delicious. Here they were presented in a traditional stew of tomatillo broth with shredded roast pork, chopped cabbage and sliced raw radishes. The spicing was a bit mild, but it was wonderful to have this soup again. It could make a nice entree soup at $7.50, but it was a tad overpriced at $5.50 for a starter cup. (Although I ordered it as an appetizer, the soup was delivered at the same time as my entree, which always makes the appetizer seem superfluous.)
For my entree I chose the Chicken in Mole Rojo, which featured a nicely executed mole flavored with chilies and sprinkled with chopped scallions and queso fresco. The chunks of chicken, served in a small metal pot, could be scooped onto warm corn tortillas or, if you prefer, and I can’t imagine why anyone would, crisped dry tortillas. The mole was richly seasoned and had a wonderful earthy note. It was a shame that it was served with fairly pedestrian refried beans and bland Mexican rice, in which I discovered a single green pea.
Service might have been more astute (see reference above to soup service) but it was mostly OK. As is expected in American Mexican restaurants, complimentary chips and salsa are served upon seating, and here the salsa was thick and pulpy. I like it that way.
It’s a sizable space but on the day I dined only the booths on the bar side of the restaurant were in use. There is another, much larger dining space on the other side of the room. I hope Winter Springers and Oviedoans start to fill both sides of the restaurant.
Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen + Tequileria is at 5248 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-636-3600.