Lena, Ann Arbor
When developers Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell opened Lena in the fall to bring Latin-American flavors and traditions to Ann Arbor, they chose Ecuadorian-born, classically trained executive chef Gabriel Vera to lead the way. Lucky us. You'll recognize some dishes, like citrus-marinated ceviche and savory meat-filled empanadas; others are deliciously new. Try yapingacho -- soft, grilled potato cakes with queso blanco cheese, avocado, peanut sauce and chorizo -- and humitas, fresh corn cakes with lemongrass-tomato stew and melted Chihuahua cheese. Excellent entrées include pan-seared corvina (a mild ocean fish) with white rice and peanut sauce; seco de pollo, adobo-sauced chicken, and beef churrasco, grilled skirt steak with rice, tomato sofrito and a fried egg. The sleek dining room has great style and personality, with distressed white plaster walls, dark walnut trim and curvy retro touches. With Lena's food and service showing polish and confidence just three months after opening, it's looking and tasting like a winning destination.
(Lunch, dinner. First courses $7-$13; most entrées teens-mid $20s. 226 S. Main; 734-994-2773 and www.lena-annarbor.com)