16800 Chandler Road, East Lansing, MI 48823
Mon – Sat: 11 am – 2 am
Sun: 11 am – 12 am
According to the menu at ENSO, the name of this restaurant in East Lansing stands for Energy – Nourishment – Style – Opportunity. I visited this restaurant for lunch three times and once for dinner before writing this review (the lengths I will go for this blog!).
The first two times I was there for lunch, the crowd was all business. It looked mostly like lobbyists courting lawmakers and sales reps with their clients. The last time I was there for lunch (which was today), I occupied the only other table with a party of 3 finishing up when I arrived at noon.
At lunch, all four flat panel TVs were on and tuned to ESPN which was a little on the distracting side which is a shame. At ENSO, there is a lot more to look at – the waterfall and the sleek bar come to mind immediately. Thankfully at dinner, the TVs were off which made it feel less like a sports bar and more like the club it is striving to be.
The menu includes “Gringo sushi,” a few varieties of house cut fries (the portobella mushroom fries are excellent) and a handful of sandwich and entree options. There’s also a great wine list at ENSO with the outstanding selections from Opus One and Paraduxx.
No bread and butter here – how about a free platter of homemade hummus and salsa and grilled flatbread? (At today’s visit, there were no complimentary appetizers – I figured they would do away with that sooner or later as it’s hard to come out ahead when so much is given away for free.)
The food has been hit or miss on my visits there. I had the fork tender short ribs for lunch. The flavor was excellent, however the fat needs to be trimmed better before leaving the kitchen. I also had the bleu cheese bacon burger which was fine – not great. And for lunch today I had the crab cake sandwich which again was fine – not great. The meal was made worthwhile for the portobella mushroom fries.
The one and only time I was there for dinner I had the grilled hanger steak with the parmesan truffled house cut fries. This by far has been the best meal I have had at ENSO. The steak was cooked a perfect medium rare and the truffled fries were amazing.
Normally, I have been so full that dessert has not even been an option. However, for lunch today, I intentionally ordered light so I could have dessert. The dessert menu looks great – caramelized bananas, quad of mousses, crème brulee cheesecake. I settled on the caramelized bananas flamed with Meyer’s Rum and served with vanilla ice cream. The flavor was outstanding – however the presentation was a hot mess. Basically, I had bananas in a pool of vanilla soup, formerly ice cream. It got more and more unappetizing as my ice cream rapidly melted.
I would say that service was excellent at each visit for lunch. Over the lunch hour, the servers were very attentive and they took very good care of me. However, dinner service was pretty non-existent.
Since this was shaping up to be an unflattering review of ENSO, I gave the restaurant a few chances to hopefully even things out. However, after my visit today, I’m ready to call it quits on a restaurant that clearly has valued style over substance. The most fashionable looking restaurant in Greater Lansing is in need of more hits than misses in the food department especially considering the prices on their lunch and dinner menus.