Cheese enchilada plate
Should you be afraid to eat Mexican food at a Zagat-rated place named Senor Fred? It depends on what you're looking for. In some ways, Senor Fred exceeds expectations: the margaritas are strong, the chips are thick, the salsa is spicy, and the atmosphere is a pleasant departure from the usual cheesy Mexican theme.
On the other hand, with the more upscale setting, the Sherman Oaks location, and the mostly white crowd come less authentic food, higher prices, and valet parking (or a spot on the street, if you can snag one). Our server was a little condescending and not too attentive--I think she had a wannabe actress complex.
The huge, Cheesecake Factory-style menu is ad-laden, but filled with options. Senor Fred is the only place I've seen include a couple of Oaxacan dishes on an otherwise traditional Mexican menu, so they get points for that even though they don't describe the moles very well. One dish is described as "chicken enchiladas with mole sauce"--but what kind of mole? That's like listing cake on the dessert menu but not saying whether it's flourless chocolate cake, lemon chiffon cake, or cheesecake.
Margarita on the rocks with salt
The cheese enchiladas definitely seemed Americanized--the cheese was too chewy and the red sauce was scarce. They tasted good, but got too dry when I ran out of sauce. There were too many mushy peas hidden in the rice. Refried beans taste pretty much the same no matter where you eat them. I got carded when I ordered a margarita--don't minors order their margaritas frozen? I can't remember the last time I got carded.
There is an outdoor patio, but it's pretty open to the street so it won't give you much protection from traffic noise or smokers. The best tables are the booths (inside), but you'll want to make a reservation if you want one since they seem to get claimed quickly.
Churros and hot dipping chocolate
The churros were sort of like beignets--very puffy and smooth, and the only non-ridged churros I've ever seen. They're smothered in cinnamon and sugar that coats your lips with each bite. The chocolate doesn't live up to its "Mexican hot chocolate" description--it isn't very sweet, has no trace of cinnamon, and seems to be thickened with flour rather than with heavy cream and eggs. Nonetheless, it's perfect for dipping the churros into. Maybe when they said Mexican, they meant that it was prepared by a Mexican. But maybe not, because a Mexican probably would have done a better job with my enchiladas.
The best things about my visit to Senor Fred were the decor, the salsa, and the margaritas, but even though I didn't love my enchiladas, I'd go back again and try something else.
13730 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Senor Fred website