Spicy new neighbors

Spicy new neighbors
Bistek Relleno

The building to the left of Texas Inn on Eastex Freeway has been home to several restaurants over the past decade – Willy Ray’s BBQ, Lone Star Steak House, and more recently J.A.C.K.K’s Diner – and while these barbeque places were smoked out, a new eatery might have what it takes to stay awhile.

Habanero Bar and Grill is putting a new spin on the older building and is now the newest authentic Mexican restaurant in Beaumont. Owner and manger Neno Chavez came up with the idea for the true-to-Mexico theme after becoming homesick.

“I was living in a nice neighborhood in New York, but I got tired of the fast life so when I came to Beaumont, I noticed there weren’t very many true authentic Mexican restaurants,” Chavez said.

While the term “authentic” may have several meanings to several different people, you can be sure this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex establishment. No tamales or canned queso here. Chavez said that while he is still in the decorating process, having only been open for less than a month, he is trying to stay true to his heritage.

“I want most, if not all of the décor to come from Mexico,” Chavez said. “The vases, the paintings, even the tiles that line the bar are all from Mexico.”

The menu

Do not be intimidated by the menu. First timers who are expecting English are going to be surprised! But don’t fret, the descriptions of the delicious dishes are easy to read. This place has it all – appetizers, soups, salads, seafood, beef, chicken and pork dishes plus house specials, and Chavez says they are all made with the freshest ingredients available.

“I think what separates us from other Mexican places is the fact that hardly any of our ingredients are canned,” Chavez said. “If you look in our storage room or pantry, you might see a can of ketchup, and that’s it. We use fresh everything.”

The restaurant is also home to a seasoned chef who happens to be Chavez’s brother.

“He has studied cuisine all over the world and has worked in restaurants from California to New York,” Chavez proudly said. “He is always trying new recipes and is really into culinary art.”

The presentation of the meal speaks to this. When your meal is placed at your table, you cannot help but sit back and admire the beauty of the plating. We were asking ourselves, “Where are we again?”

What we ate

We started out with chips and two kinds of salsa, mango-habanero and house. Queso Fundido accompanied the other appetizers. For the meal, we tried Bistek Relleno and the daily special, Cabbo’s Fish.

Starters

The house blend salsa was spicy, and not the same bland mixture we are used to with our chips. The mango blend was amazing! The sweet chunks of real fruit blended wonderfully with the hot peppers and fresh cilantro. We could have munched on it all day. Queso Fundido is hot melted Oaxaca cheese with sautéed Mexican chorizo served with small corn tortillas. This cheesy concoction came in a mini cast iron skillet to keep the ooey gooey white cheese hot.

Bistek Relleno

Veal steak stuffed with smoked ham, spinach and Oaxaca cheese with ancho chile sauce. Served with refried beans and rice. The meat was so juicy and flavorful, and the presentation was top notch. The glaze sauce had a smoky taste to it, while adding and extra kick to the wrapped meat. The beans were also sprinkled with Cotija cheese and added a nice touch of pizzazz.

Cabbo’s Fish

This fish dish is not currently on the menu, but it’s just one example of delicious cuisine found at Habanero’s Bar and Grill. An inspiration of the chef’s, Chilean sea bass is stuffed with tamarind cream sauce and grilled shrimp and laid on a bed of white, cilantro rice. This was hands down our favorite entrée. The thick fish was tender and flakey and tasted great with the cream sauce. The rice was warm and fluffy and had a little bit of mixed peas and corn kernels and cilantro flakes. The whole dish was filling and tasty.

Habanero Bar and Grill offers an authentic Mexican flare unlike anything we’ve seen, and the overall experience was wonderful. There is hardly any place around these parts that have the same quality of food plated and presented like a five star, gourmet meal – for under $12. We were simply amazed.

Go try a taste of Mexico!

We like to know where you like to go! E-mail suggestions for next week’s adventure to weeklydish [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

shadow