Last updateFri, 11 Mar 2016 6pm

Roberto’s: Elegance, fine dining & requests accepted

Robert’s restaurant at the west end of Ajijic, mountain side, is laid out over many tiers beginning with a handsome garden setting and continuing up easy-to-manage steps to a level overlooking the garden and then to an elegant interior with a cozy fireplace.

My partner chose the interior, and immediately felt serene and cozy when our waiter moved our table closer to the hearth without being asked.

I started with the crab-cake appetizer. Small crab-cakes to be dipped in a variety of table-condiment sauces with a pineapple and lettuce bed. They arrived before I could completely enjoy Roberto’s complimentary croquettes, bread and corn muffins.

One of the unique things at Roberto’s is the chef’s willingness to customize a dish for the ever-fussy diner who “can’t eat this or that,” a lucid nightmare for wait staff.  My order and my partner’s were a perfect example. I ordered the Orange Chicken from the Sunday Chinese menu. But I did not want it in the traditional deep-fried, heavily-coated style, so our gracious waiter, Macedonio, immediately offered to have it done as baked chicken niblets set in a fresh orange sauce. With fried rice, it was precisely what I had hoped for. My partner’s effort became pure kitchen invention. “Something light and fancy like a salad, but not a salad,” was the initial request. (With that, Macedonio heroically remained at the table.) A Cobb salad came to mind, but with flourishes and full dinner weight. The result, with Macedonio’s help, was a circular plate of five precision-straight rows, each with a distinct salad separately presented: a ground-up egg salad, a blue cheese crumble, chopped mushrooms, a sautéed spinach spread and finally a row of seasoned avocado chunks. Nothing like this was on the menu (it was totally customized). But the impression one was left with from the presentation was that this “entree” had been done a thousand times. Both dishes were delivered with a deserved self-congratulatory smile by Macedonio. Short of helping yourself to the kitchen, improvisation to this extent is rare in any fine eating establishment.

A nice, purposeful wine list at reasonable prices made our wine choices easy (once we were able to recall what we ordered). A seductive, well-rounded dessert list featured a specialty with a magma-flow of chocolate in various styles and textures, called by the owner “Napoleon Roberto” obviously named after the famous spunky commander himself (why Roberto added Napoleon no one knows). There is also a spectacular peanut butter satin pie, which we were told by guests is well ... better than other favorite adult activities.

Roberto’s is known for its special evenings at discounts and its special-event menus like this Sunday’s St. Valentine’s Day menu, an excellent value and meal selection. There’s also a Chinese specialty menu for Sundays. 

Evenings are downtime, even for the retired. And Roberto’s is a perfect downtime venue. Pets are also welcome unless, of course, your pet has a bridle.

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