September 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Urban Rio

Originally featured on Dallas Food Nerd

Mexican restaurant, Urban Rio, located in Historic Downtown Plano featured a Margarita Dinner on August 19th.  We were invited to attend and enjoy five refreshing margaritas paired with five drool worthy courses.

As we sat down, we immediately received salsa, black bean dip and chips.  After one bite of the black bean dip on a tortilla chip, I had a feeling everything else would be just as amazing or better.  There was a spice I couldn’t identify but made me want to keep eating more and after each bite my mind was filled with possible spices.  Coriander?  Turmeric?  It was familiar and delicious but what the heck was it? 

When our cheerful, attentive and informative waiter, Cody, stopped by to check on us, I finally gave in and asked him what that mystery spice was in the bean dip.  I give props and have a higher respect to waiters who know how dishes are prepared at the restaurants they work in.  He smiled and happily claimed it’s not a surprise as that is the popular question from diners since day one of opening. It’s known as canela in Mexico, or “true” cinnamon as a Google result stated. It’s milder than our American cinnamon and tastes more of vanilla and floral flavor with just a hint of heat.  I’m not surprised I was drawn to love it, as cinnamon is one of my favorite spices to use, especially in savory dishes.

Our first course was a light and refreshing Pear Salad.  A blend of mixed greens, thin cucumber and pear slices tossed in house-made pear vinaigrette.   This was a perfect dish for a hot summer day.  It was paired with a delicious FlowerRita made with Lanique Rose Petal Liqueur, pear nectar and edible flower garnish.  The margarita was light like the dish and had hints of floral and fruit flavors.

The second course was one of my top favorites of the night with the Mango Beef Skewers and Chipotle-Mango Margarita.  The skewers were made with tender strips of chipotle beef skewers grilled and served with a simple chunky mango salsa.  The margarita was made with a puree of chipotle-mango with a chipotle salt rim.  I loved the sweetness of the mango and the spicy kick from the chipotle in your throat after each sip.  I could totally eat a lot of the beef (and drink a couple more ritas).  The strips of grilled beef would be great on top of mixed greens and served as a salad.

Another favorite of mine was the third course, which was the Agave Salmon.  The salmon was marinated with agave and mint, sautéed and topped with mint and cherry remoulade and a roasted medley of brussel sprouts, corn and red bell pepper.  The added crunch of the roasted veggies paired well with each bite of the tender salmon.  I loved all the textures and flavors of this dish.   It was paired with a summery MojitaRita which is a Mojito made with tequila, agave nectar and mint.

The fourth course was the Jalapeno Chicken and CJ Rita.  The succulent chicken breast was marinated in onion, jalapenos and herbs and served with cucumber salad and apricot relish.  The CJ Rita was made with fresh cucumber and jalapeno-lime juice.  This was another favorite margarita of mine.  (I must like a spicy kick in my drinks.) It was more mellow than the chipotle—mango  margarita but still delicious all the same.  The cucumber and lime made a refreshing flavor combo. This drink, in a pitcher, poolside equals summer fun in Texas.

The fifth and final course of the evening was the Raspberry Ancho Lava Cake.  An airy lava cake infused with ancho chili, drizzled with raspberry fudge sauce with a side of Grand Marnier spiked frozen raspberries and whipped cream.  The perfect accompaniment of the Lemon-Berry Smash made with raspberry liqueur, limoncello, mixed-berry puree served with a frozen berry garnish ended the dinner on a high note.  The drink reminded me of a delicious fruit smoothie and I had to remind myself it contained alcohol so I wouldn’t slurp it down so quickly.  Plus, icy head rushes are no fun.

We had the privilege of meeting the executive chef, Fernando Torres.  At the end of the night, when he stopped by again, we were basking in the afterglow of dessert so I was extra giddy and expressed my delighted surprise of how the lava cake melted in my mouth.  He mentioned it contained less flour than most cakes so it makes it much lighter.  I let him know it was ‘heavenly’.  Chef Torres even said he’d be happy to provide the recipe. (I need to follow up on that stat!)

I noticed they have a brunch menu as well so I guess that means I have to go back and taste test soon.  

(Disclaimer: The meal and drinks were complimentary but the reviews and thoughts are my own.)

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