Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Tacos

This time, a pricier version. I should have known that Alex Stupak, the former pastry chef for Wylie Dufresne's iconic wd-50, wouldn't play soft ball. Stupak opened his west village taco joint, Empellon, a few weeks ago and the place is hip enough, with white brick walls and Klimt-esque artwork and antique light fixtures. The menu is medium-sized and full of interesting choices--ceviches, sopes, tacos, chicharrones, snacks. Our over-eager waitress upsold us on a fine guacamole with two stellar sauces on the side--one smoky and nearly sweet, the other fiery hot and made with pumpkin seeds. Still, I wish I had more time to check the menu before I agreed to the starter. I would have ordered the chicharrones with capers and olives instead.

Our two appetizers--a sope with fried egg and beans and a Staub cast iron filled with kale and melted cheese--arrived with warm tortillas, a nice touch. Each was delicious and satisfying, if not particularly inventive. Tacos come in trios and so we ordered a lamb barbacoa, which came with green olives and cheese, and a minute steak with onions emincer and fresh cilantro. The tacos were the way I like them--salty, smoky, texturally complex. But at $17 for three, I felt a little ripped off. No native Mexican could ever in good conscience pay such prices for elevated street food.

The pastry kitchen has always been Stupak's home and at Empellon, that tradition continues. Our chocolate flan (a misnomer, since it more closely resembled a mousse than a custard) was adorned with crunchy bits of one sort or another and a spicy cinnamon ice cream quenelle and warm honey. Aside from the truly inspired grapefruit margaritas, dessert was the best course.

230 W. 4th Street
New York, NY 10014

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