El Barzon (to saunter or stroll around or the strap that yokes oxen to the plow beam), located in Detroit’s Mexicantown, features two menus: one Mexican, the other Italian. This is not a fusion concept, but rather two cuisines offered by the same establishment. Pretty much everything, but the tortilla chips, is made in house. It’s a place where you don’t park on the street unless you want the giant rottweiler next door barking crazily at you – was he named Satan? I don’t know. Instead, there was a parking lot behind the restaurant if you see the sign to turn into the alley.
|The Mexican/Italian Interior of El Barzon|
Once we were in the quiet, darkened interior with Big Band and American Songbook standards sung by the great generation of saloon singers, we were treated to friendly, professional service and one-of-a-kind food. We devoured the chips with the spicy red sauce and the lovely green sauce. It was cream based and it had a smoothness that must have originated with a roux. Yes, we had a second round of chips, which was a mistake when we saw the size of the entrée portions, but we didn’t go so far as to lick out the salsa bowls.
|Tomato Pasta Soup|
We shared a tomato pasta soup, which was broth based with diced potato. Surprisingly delicate, it was a nice way to prepare for the Chile Relleno with Beef and the special, which was Gnocci in Pesto sauce served with grilled chicken.
The relleno was the best version of this dish I think I’ve ever had. The batter was very light and was a complement, not an overwhelming blanket, to the vegetable that was cooked perfectly – neither tough nor falling apart. The beef filling was generous and all meat. The red sauce was sweet and smoky, the black beans creamy, and the rice freshly cooked. It was a total winner! The creamy pesto sauce was beautiful, thick,
|Pesto Gnocchi with Chicken|
and plentiful. The gnocchi were pillows filled with cream cheese. It was a great touch, revealing ingenuity and effort. Neil liked the chicken and thought the grill taste set off the smooth creaminess of the sauce very well. I didn’t think the chicken was needed and one of the strips I ate was stringy. Otherwise, this was really good.
The parking lot attendant was friendly and shared his story as a Cuban refugee and it was fascinating. It’s an unexpected and worthwhile place to visit, though it’s off the beaten path from the Detroit “that’s come back” according to the ads.