Proprietors/Executive Chef: James Gersten & Derek Sanders/Akhtar Nawab
Soho– 114 Kenmare Street, New York, NY
the best of the east coast. let’s face it… Mexican food reigns supreme in the west coast. No comparison. For the closest version on the East Coast without all the frills, La Esquina does come close… it’s not a fancy, upscale place or anything…so don’t go expecting such. It’s a little run down, which gives it an authenticated charm that you may be getting the real deal. Sometimes simplicity is key. There is almost always a long wait here…so either get here early or be prepared for it. I think we waited a little over an hour…. hungry and impatience does not suit anybody well. And for the brasserie downstairs that requires reservation only (3 weeks in advance). HELL no, I don’t have the patience for that, let alone for a Mexican restaurant. Sorry, I’ll take my chances for a walk in for their Cafe Menu. One of these days…. last time I was there, there was some serious partying going downstairs…so I am almost positive they turn it into some speakeasy club after hours…. the music is super loud and people stumble up and down to the bathroom in their drunken stupor. MAJOR PICK UP SCENE!
SO, there is apparently three kinds of menu…taqueria, cafe & brasserie… Brasserie takes reservations 21 days in advance, and has a more extensive menu than the other two. Taqueria is the most casual menu, where you can order take out or pick up (please note NO ALCOHOL is served). The cafe sits pretty in the middle…it doesn’t require reservation, and you can walk in and have a nice meal just about any day of the week for brunch or dinner, (WITH alcohol served). Apparently, that’s what we did.
CHILE PIQUIN GRILLED CALAMARI Smoked chickpeas, roasted cherry tomatoes, lime citronette.
Light, citrus flavors, nice little char on the calamari..not too memorable in the near distance. What’s up with the chick peas? Love em’ but they felt out of place. Maybe pureeing them would have offset the textures a bit better.
TOSTADA DE CANGREJO lump crab meat, mango, tomato, chipotle mayo
Really good. Probably the one thing I savor when I come back. Not too heavy on the chipotle mayo…interestingly the mango and tomato round out the acidic and sweetness. There was plenty of the crab meat. I was really surprised I liked this…but I did. The perfect little juicy bite.
QUESADILLA DE HUITLACOCHE mexican truffle, roasted corn, epazote, mushrooms, queso oaxaca
Never mind what the mushrooms tasted like, with truffle and cheese mixed in there….you can mask anything! No seriously, pretty tasty. Roasted corn gives it a nice, varying sweet texture..so it’s just not truffle and cheese…. which is about every other f*ing restaurant in NYC. I’m a hater… I still love it…but truffles ARE highly overrated in my opinion.
ELOTES CALLEJEROS grilled local corn
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PESCADO grilled skewered market fish, shredded cabbage, red onions, salsa verde
My least favorite item on the menu. Good, but not great and by any means memorable. To strongly reiterate the point to dear friends and family, I can make better fish tacos at home using fresh ingredients. The key is all in the ingredients and making sure it’s finely chopped up. I really don’t understand the concept of putting cabbage and mixing it with fish. I want cilantro, parsley, FRESH HERBS and jumping jalepenos! Maybe it’ll burn your mouth! Add some pico de gallo! Avocado! Liven that taco up! With all exceptions, and I do have one…is Rockaway Tacos…So moral of the story is… STICK to the carne tacos folks (aka pulled pork and other fine meats).
Food For Thought…Shoulda, coulda, would’ve…. gotten the ceviche…but was silly stuffed. And while I may be a “hater” of Mexican food, I do crave a good fish taco, grilled corn, Et cetera more recently than ever… so I suppose I have warmed up to the concept of it… It only took me 4 years since I moved from DC to NYC. And even then, I bet you, it could only be love if I ever moved South/West. I have spoken…yes, giving myself hints, that I will come back to La Esquina… or another eatery like Empellon and order weird sh*t like veal tongue tacos. Facial expression? *YUM!