Saturday, September 27, 2008

A few good Mex

One of the reasons why I always thought guys took their dates to Mexican restaurants was because it was, well, cheap. (And you were sort of expected to get a Corona or a shot of tequila -- or something else that makes the date more fun.)

Plus, Mexican is the kind of food that you want to be cheap. That's part of the charm. It's based on a peasant diet. Just as I couldn't quite imagine gourmet cholent, it's sort of an absurd idea to imagine a gourmet burrito. (God -- gourmet cholent would be such a great Top Chef challenge.)

But gourmet Mexican has been hitting the city in full force for some time. I sort of knew that was the case; it was always Bobby Flay's claim to fame. (I hadn't visited any Flay restaurant except for Bar Amercain, which wasn't strictly Mexican -- I had a sandwich. It was fine.) But I resisted actually visiting any of them until recently.

In the last few weeks I visited two of them -- and they were both pretty good.

First up was Rosa Mexicano, right by Lincoln Center. (The menu function doesn't seem to work properly on their web site, so to look at the menu go to menupages.) It was a really nice room. The guacamole is pricey, but they make it at your table for you (which, as theater, I've always enjoyed) and is overall excellent. (The avocados were not quite soft enough in my guac, but it was definitely tasty.)

We had a terrific appetizer called Zarape de pato, which was a roast duck dish with a yellow pepper sauce (a creamy, terrific sauce that tasted like it had a little pumpkin in it).  That was probably my favorite dish of the night -- the duck tasted almost like it was braised; fell apart in your mouth. Really fabulous.

For the main course, I had Tablones, a beef short rib dish. Very good. The sauce wasn't nearly as good as the Zarape, (what are you going to do) -- but very satisfying.

Then last week, to celebrate the Post's 44 page real estate section, the team went to Los Dados in the Meatpacking District.

We sort of went nuts -- so I'll run down the dishes we tried and my rating on a scale from one to ten. Guacamole (6 for the guac -- 8 for the chips). Sweet plantain with Oaxacan cheese gordita (7). Pork taquitos (10). Beef mini tacos (9). Chicken Quesadilla (5). Beef enchilada (4 -- but I generally don't care for enchiladas).

As for the drinks, we had a pitcher of sangria (very good) and I had one of their mixed drinks called the chili palmer (made out of passion fruit juice, vodka and chili -- excellent).

For dessert we had the profiteroles (6) and churros (3 -- Feh! I would have perhaps not been so harsh on it if I hadn't had the churros as the Knickerbocker last week which were so much superior).

Overall, it would be difficult to argue that these places weren't better than a seedy place you'd find in Sunset Park -- even if it was four or five times as expensive. (Rosa Mexciano I think was the better of the two -- but Los Dados was really, really decent.) However, having sampled gourmet Mexican, I want my cheap, scraggily soft tacos again!