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Spotlight: Saint Anejo + Tequileria

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Saint Anejo is a new Mexican restaurant in Winter Springs, and in case you’re wondering, there doesn’t seem to have been a real Saint 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. 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.

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.

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.

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