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Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar
Jul 6th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

If you’ve ever thought, “Boy, I sure love Eleven Madison Park, but wouldn’t it be great if the chef instead used his immense skills to make me a chicken parm?”, Mamma Guidara’s is for you. It’s Chef Daniel Humm’s take on classic red sauce dishes, named in loving honor of his co-owner, Will Guidara’s, mom.

On Sunday nights, the NoMad Bar transforms into one of those red-checkered-tablecloth joints from the 80s, and although the decor is a little chintzy (in the best way), the food is just what you’d expect from a three-Michelin-star chef. And it’s only $74 for four courses that seem more like eight or ten by the time it’s all said and done.

Mamma Guidara’s is on hiatus this summer but will be back on September 10th! In the meantime, drool over what you’ll be getting, and watch this site for reservations.


a Blue Hawaiian cocktail to start, no shame


Caesar salad


crusty bread that we ordered more of in order to make sandwiches with our leftover chicken parm


fried calamari with marinara


seafood salad


meatballs


chicken marsala

One of my friends insisted that we get this when we were given the choice of chicken parm, chicken piccata, and chicken marsala and asked to pick which we wanted for our three shared dishes. The other five of us all wanted triple chicken parm, but she thought we should try at least one of the others, and we all scorned her. Until this turned out to be totally delicious, and it would’ve been really sad for me to have not known how good it was. Don’t be a fool! The chicken parm is big enough for four people; if you have a group, get the other kinds, and everyone will still be able to have some of everything!


chicken parm

If you think this looks like a normal-sized portion, this picture is misleading. It was equivalent to, I don’t know, a medium pizza? And made out of mostly fat and protein so nothing could be more filling in the world? Since our group of six had two of these plus the chicken marsala, extra bread was procured and take-home sandwiches were made.



side of roasted cauliflower


side of cacio e pepe


side of spaghetti


cannoli

I don’t care about cannoli at ALL and am never sure why New Yorkers freak out about them, but these have me convinced now that cannoli are delicious, even though I really know it’s only THESE cannoli that are delicious. The pastry was so much lighter than usual, buttery instead of crackery, and the filling was just . . . better. I wanted three of them to myself, and it’s a travesty that I can’t walk into a bakery and buy them.


cutting the tartufo



decorating the tartufo


There’s ice cream, and then there’s ice cream rolled into a ball and stuffed with jam.

Overall, this was such a totally fun experience, with familiar food that just happens to be way better than anyone’s mamma used to make it. I’m totally biased toward novelty dining (think the dessert magic trick at Eleven Madison Park), but I’m not sure how anyone could resist a place that serves Little Italy’s food without the surly attitudes and with cannoli that are actually worth freaking out about.

Chef David Santos’s Secret NYC Dinner Club, Um Segredo, at Good Stock
Jun 26th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I’ve followed my favorite NYC chef from his West Village restaurant Louro to his taking-the-city-by-storm soup venture, Good Stock, but what made me first fall in love with Chef David Santos‘s cooking were his secret home supper clubs, which he called Um Segredo (“a secret” in Portuguese). Well, they’re back, and they’re not so secret anymore! In that they take place right out in the open at the Good Stock on Carmine Street.

But the same secret feel is still there: just you and five others in the tiny store front, gathered around a table while Chef Santos cooks directly in front of you, offering insight about each of the ingredients and just shooting the breeze like he doesn’t need to concentrate while shaving $100 worth of summer truffle onto your plates.

The fresh herbs and flowers were a beautiful compliment to the late afternoon sun warming the front windows. The roast duck with fresh cilantro and lamb with cumin-flavored squid ink were so good it seemed like a crime that this guy doesn’t have a tasting-menu-only restaurant. The cold peanut butter dessert was so comforting and just plain old yummy that you couldn’t believe he had the guts to serve a warm dessert after it, and then that was just as outstanding. I left feeling like I can’t go to any dinners that aren’t Um Segredo dinners. It’s such amazing food, topped off with an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Follow Chef Santos on Instagram for the link to buy tickets to the next dinner!



Bien Cuit bread with bacon marmalade



Swimmer crab
Watermelon
Avocado pudding
Turmeric pickled rind
Shiso
Lime and olive oil


Bluefish pate
Pickled pearl onion
Biscuit crackers
Herb salad


Carrot dog:
Carrot cooked in olive oil and smoked paprika
Buttered bread and mustard puree
6-month-fermented beetkraut
Amaranth


Examining bitter:
Roasted porcini
Charred breakfast radish
Cocoa nib
Elderflower
Charred onion tea infused with elderflower stems and porcini


Pouring the onion tea


Schmaltz-cooked kohlrabi
Milk and aged creme fraiche pudding
Flowers
Summer truffle


Shaving the truffle



Red wine braised Portuguese octopus
Puree of its braising vegetables
Hazelnuts
Crispy shallot
Chives


Roast duck
Honey sous vide apricot
Goose tongue
Puffed rice
Cilantro


Sous vide lamb
Royal corona beans
Fermented vegetables
Squid ink cumin eggplant puree
Wild garlic flowers


The Elvis:
Honey roasted peanut pudding
Steel cut oat and sorghum crumble
Bacon and banana ice

(This picture does the dessert no justice, I’m sorry; I just got excited about the Good Stock cups.)


Warm strawberry and rhubarb jam
Roasted rhubarb
Biscuit crackers
Vanilla goat’s milk ice cream


The Tasting Menu at Agern
Mar 30th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Had you asked me a week ago if I had any interest in Nordic cuisine, I would’ve given you something like a polite, “Sure, I’m interested in all cuisines!” And then, you know, gone back to eating my tacos. But if you’d prefaced that question by mentioning that the chef at Agern, the restaurant inside of Grand Central Terminal, has a restaurant in Iceland called Dill, I might have thought differently. I LOVE dill. And it doesn’t hurt that the owner of Agern is the same guy who helped found Noma in Denmark, which has been named the best restaurant in the world, oh, I don’t know, four times?

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Senses – Warsaw, Poland
Nov 4th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’m not sure people think of creative fine dining when they think of Poland, so it’s not surprising that Warsaw’s Senses restaurant only has one Michelin star, even if that’s a crime. My boyfriend and his family are from the area originally, so he took me there last month to see where he grew up, and naturally, I checked the Michelin guide. There are only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole country, and one just received its star this year, so we decided to give the new kid a try.

I emailed the restaurant for a reservation two weeks before our trip and was able to get us in at 8pm, although we admittedly were trying for a probably-not-so-popular Monday night. They offer 7- and 9-course tastings, which my boyfriend’s family all laughed at the impossibility of. They were super skeptical about their ability to eat so many courses and for so many hours, especially when his dad doesn’t even like seafood. But I basically forced them to forge ahead, and it ended up being one of the very best meals and experiences I’ve had anywhere.

In NYC, this meal would’ve been on par with Eleven Madison Park or Brooklyn Fare. It would have easily had three Michelin stars, and it would have cost $300. In Warsaw, it cost $99 and included about 20 extra treats not listed on the menu. And even value aside, the service was phenomenal. The servers spoke in English to me and then repeated everything in Polish for my boyfriend’s family, and just like at our two-Michelin-starred dinner in Vienna, everyone was hilarious. Just always anticipating what would delight us and making us laugh through every course. Having just visited Eleven Madison Park last month, I noticed a huge difference between the polite professionalism of the servers there and the way the Polish servers made us feel like we were guests in their home. Which might make sense when you remember that Chef Andrea Camastra is Italian and French.

Click here to read more ≫

Bowery Meat Company is Weirdly Worth the Money
Sep 28th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Last year, I spent a week on a yacht touring some of the islands of Greece with my boyfriend and three of his friends. One of those friends was visiting NYC last week from Romania, so I wanted to take her someplace new and well-rated. A co-worker happened to mention Bowery Meat Company to me that very week, and not only had the New York Times given it two stars, but it had meat right in the name.

Click here to read more ≫

Industry 1332 is All About That Avocado
May 10th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I get restaurants offering me free meals every now and then, and having no soul like I do, I’m usually wont to take them up on that offer. But Industry 1332 tried a different approach: they just asked me to come in. I was talking about empanadas on Twitter, as usual, and their social media person started up a conversation with me. There was absolutely no reason for me to visit a random Latin restaurant in the middle of Bushwick, but it did have great reviews, and their tweets to me were cute and personal, just pushy enough to interest me without turning me off. So I made a reservation for four on a random weeknight and took the G train with my boyfriend to an L stop I’ve never been to before. It was just seedy-seeming enough to be exciting to a couple from the family-friendly part of Brooklyn as we hurried down the dark street beside the building, which seemed to be surrounded mostly by warehouses. Inside, they had used some of that industrial feeling in their design, with exposed brick and beams. Our friends Jon and Lara like to order ALL THE THINGS, so we tasted a good bit of the menu, and the menu sure was good.

Industry 1332 NYC

Industry 1332 NYC
ceviche

I was trying to stick to my low-carb diet that night, so I was bowled over by the fact that this didn’t arrive with any chips. Most restaurants are like, “Here, fill up on these greasy things so you don’t notice we only gave you three spoonfuls of fish.” Industry 1332 was like, “Here, we made this giant bowl of fish for you and didn’t want to hinder the flavor with some dumb chips.” I don’t want to talk in superlatives, but let’s just say that this was an incredibly complex ceviche and is certainly the one I’ll hold up as my standard-bearer in the future. It was fluke marinated in citrus with onions, peppers, mango, cilantro, and fresh avocado. Sweet, sour, and spicy. The mango was sliced almost like a noodle to give the bowl some heft, and the avocado was this amazing creamy mousse that also popped up in some other dishes, because the restaurant must have realized it’s the bomb.

Industry 1332 NYC
tirado de atún

Fresh ahi tuna cubes marinated in a ginger ponzu sauce with an avocado mousse. Looks like watermelon, tastes like the ocean! Again with that avocado, because it should be on everything this restaurant serves.

Industry 1332 NYC
arepitas

Mini corn cakes topped with shredded braised beef, avocado, smoked gouda cheese and mushroom aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
baja fish tacos

Tempura fried sole filet, in a corn tortilla topped with pico de gallo and yellow aji aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
empanadas de la casa

Pastry turnovers served with a chipotle aioli in beef, chicken, or vegetable.

Industry 1332 NYC
lomo saltado

Sautéed ginger marinated beef, tri-colored fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, green papaya slaw served with basmati rice.

Industry 1332 NYC
pechuga rellena

Chicken breast stuffed with manchego cheese, chorizo, roasted pepper sofrito and a cilantro pesto basmati rice. When you’re on a low-carb diet, meat stuffed in meat with a bunch of cheese is your dream. This was all of the flavors of Mexican pizza without any of the carb face the next day.

Industry 1332 NYC
pan seared tuna

Sesame ahi tuna, served with roasted vegetables and a mango sriracha chutney. Tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Industry 1332 NYC
churros

Fried pastry dough rolled in cinnamon sugar served with dulce de leche crème sauce. Tasted better than it looked, my dinner guests told me, although I’m never going to complain about a heaping mound of whipped cream no matter its appearance.

Industry 1332 NYC

What we initially heard was that the neighborhood was a little upset about Industry 1332 being there, evidently because it’s too “nice” and will attract too many people to one of the still-cheap-ish parts of Bushwick. But now all of the Yelp reviews are by people who live down the street and love it. I’m gonna say it’s all thanks to that avocado mousse.

Industry 1332
1332 Halsey Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map)

Howl at the Moon in NYC
Nov 24th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Howl at the Moon invited me to bring a few friends to the grand opening of their new Times Square location, and as a person who loves singing her face off unabashedly in public, I gratefully obliged. It’s a massive (for NYC) open space with a bar at the center, pianos up front, and a wraparound balcony full of leather couches on the second level where you’ll get the best view and the most room to dance. The free drinks were flowing fast and strong that night, and the mini burgers and fried cheese cubes were hot and plentiful.

But what really stood out is how crazy friendly the service was. The servers who brought our drinks were overwhelmingly nice, and when some sloppy guy spilled a glass of wine where we were hanging out, it was about three seconds before someone came to clean it up. I don’t know if they were just trying to impress the grand opening guests or if they want to be known for good service in a city where indifference is the norm, but it was noticeable to me.

When the music began and the audience started writing their requests on slips of paper and putting them on the pianos, we heard everything from Adele to Michael Jackson to Eminem to Bruno Mars to (WTF) a song from The Lion King. Their rapping white guy left us speechless, and one of their piano players seemed to be able to sound exactly like anyone he wanted to. The mostly elderly people in the place were the first ones to start dancing, but the entire crowd was up and singing along by the end of the night, and I don’t think it was just the free drinks.

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Chef Dave Santos’s Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up
Nov 10th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Chef Dave Santos may be a free agent since closing his West Village restaurant, Louro, this summer, but he’s not taking any time off. I was lucky enough to get a reservation at his Nashville hot chicken pop-up in the Manhattan location of Bark Hot Dogs last week, where he was serving whole fried chickens using his special recipe that even the Tennesseeans in the room said was better than what they’ve had back home. My friends and I got two whole chickens with pickles, cole slaw, baked beans, and potato salad, but we also couldn’t resist Dave’s fried chicken sandwiches and Bark’s super cheap pitchers of beer. The people around us who hadn’t reserved the whole chickens were oohing and ahhing over our tray of crispy battered thighs and drumsticks, and some of them even asked to take pictures. The only complaint I heard is that this was only a pop-up and we can’t have Dave’s hot chicken every day.

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
so crispy and glistening

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
a line back to the entrance of people waiting for hot chicken sandwiches

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
so good we had to take some home to eat later!

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Afternoon Tea at The Pierre Hotel
Mar 27th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

A couple of my ladyfriends and I decided to get really into tea recently. We read all of the articles about the best high tea services in NYC, prepared ordered lists of our must-visit teahouses, purchased embroidered silk gloves and dusted the mothballs off our party dresses. And then managed to go to exactly one tea service. But afternoon tea at The Pierre Hotel overlooking Central Park was exactly what we were picturing when we set out to drink some tea and eat some tiny sandwiches.

The Pierre hosts tea in its Two E Bar/Lounge every day from 3 to 5 p.m. with a couple of options so you can choose from expensive, really expensive, or extra expensive with Champagne. The three of us obviously opted for the Champagne, which was poured from individual bottles by our friendly yet extremely polished waiter,

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and then we admired the fine flatware

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and the posh crown-molded surroundings while we waited for our tower of treats to arrive.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

I chose a pot of the bergamot-scented Pierre Blend for my tea

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and immediately made it unrecognizable with milk and sugar.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Three of each kind of finger sandwich, cookie and scone, and pastries arrived and wowed us with their imposing size, but we hadn’t eaten breakfast and eventually devoured every bit of it over the next four hours.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Here’s the complete menu:

Catskill Smoked Salmon on Rye Bread, Balsamic Onions & Sour Cream
Boursin Cheese & Asparagus Crostini with Tomato Jam
Spiced Chicken Tartlet
Dates & Babaganoush Crepes
American Caviar & Buckwheat Blinis
English Cucumber with Dill Cream Cheese
Deviled Eggs Brioche Buns with Red Sorrel

Cranberry Scones
With Devonshire Cream, Raspberry Preserves and Fresh-made Lemon Curd
Walnut Cream Sugar Squares
Lemon Apricot Sandwiches
Chocolate Sand Cookies

Fresh Raspberry Tartlets
Red Cherry Financiers
Fresh Blueberry Tartlets
Grand Marnier Chocolate Madeleines
Coffee Opera Cake
Lemon Meringue Tarts
Coffee & Strawberry Macarons

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

We eventually stayed so long that the lights dimmed and we decided some $18 cocktails were in order. None of us could resist the GinGin, a combination of Hendricks Gin, Canton Ginger Liqueur, mint, cucumber juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, and ginger ale.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

It was served with fresh fried potato chips and huge luxurious chunks of Parmesan cheese, which we certainly needed after that mere literal tower of food we ate earlier.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

There seem to be two kinds of afternoon teas in NYC: upscale English high tea and comfortable kitschy tea. Alice’s Tea Cup may be NYC’s most popular afternoon tea, and I love that I can pop in for a casual scone on a weeknight or wait on the scorching pavement with the dirty masses for 2 hours and 45 minutes on a weekend (actual Alice’s wait time when I last attempted to brunch there), but when I want fancy high tea with all of the trappings, I’ll forever think of Two E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre. It was just exactly what I expected, from the polished flatware to the caviar to being allowed to laze about for hours and slowly sip our Champagne. They make it feel like it’s worth the money. To complete the experience, there was an older couple sitting at the table next to ours where the man was wearing a suit and reading the Sunday Times and the woman was wearing pearls under her pale yellow blazer, and I didn’t see them speak a single word to each other. Nor even look at each other. So New York City!

The Pierre Hotel
2 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10065 (map)

Cosme: The Time We Basically Ate the Entire Menu
Feb 10th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Eater called it “One of NYC’s Most Relevant New Restaurants“. The New York Times gave it three stars the very day I went. Chef Enrique Olvera has what’s considered Mexico’s best restaurant and just guest-judged an episode of “Top Chef: Boston” filmed there. This chef is hot, and you know he knows it the moment you walk in the doors of Cosme to find a bar crowded with people not there to eat but just to be. The decor is mostly black, punctuated by little pots of succulents and a direct beam of light on every table strong enough to make professional photographers and hardcore Instagrammers alike swoon. The tables are spaced so widely that you get the idea the restaurant’s more concerned about your comfort than making an extra buck–although maybe that’s why they do charge an extra buck (or ten) for everything–and I can’t remember ever hearing the conversations of anyone around us even though the electronic-tinged soundtrack wasn’t overbearing at all. It’s borderline clubby, the kind of restaurant a non-New-Yorker thinks all New York restaurants are like, but it never felt pretentious nor snooty. And the food? Well, it was tiny and very expensive, but that sure didn’t stop us from eating a lot of it.

Cosme NYC
Cosme’s menu

Cosme NYC
Tortillas, pumpkin butter

Cosme NYC
Stuffed avocado, seafood vuelve a la vida, horseradish

Cosme NYC
Mussel tostada, russian salad, chipotle mayonnaise

Cosme NYC
Uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber

Cosme NYC
Sliced raw hamachi, fermented serranos, fish sauce, black limes

Cosme NYC
Chicharron, radish, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce

Cosme NYC
Cobia al pastor, pineapple purée, cilantro

Cosme NYC
Scallop aguachile, poached jicama, fresh wasabi-cucumber-lime

Cosme NYC
Smoked raw sepia, salsa mexicana, avocado

Cosme NYC
Octopus cocktail, purple occidental corn chileatole, charred avocado, red onion

Cosme NYC
Mushroom and squash barbacoa, chilpachole, hoja santa

Cosme NYC
Eggplant tamal, fresh ricotta

Cosme NYC
Enfrijolada, ricotta, hoja santa, creme fraiche, onion

Cosme NYC
Burrata, salsa verde, weeds

Cosme NYC
Occidental purple corn pozole, pork jowl, lettuce, radish, Mexican oregano

Cosme NYC
Duck carnitas, onions, radishes, salsa verde

Cosme NYC

Cosme NYC
Cosme’s dessert menu

Cosme NYC
Chocolate ganache, mezcal, blood orange, beet sorbet

Cosme NYC
Nixtamalized carrot, cinnamon cake, cream cheese ice cream

Cosme NYC
Brioche, persimmon, ricotta, fresh peanut butter

Cosme NYC
Lemon cake, grapefruit, quince sorbet

Cosme NYC
Sweet potato flan, coffee

Cosme NYC
Husk meringue, corn mousse

Cosme NYC
2012 Riesling No. 110 Semi Dry, Boundary Breaks, Finger Lakes, NY

Cosme NYC
wall decor and A Day at elBulli

Cosme NYC
a lonely little succulent in the wee hours of the night

Most things we tried sort of tasted the same in that they were like, “Here’s something with onions and cilantro and avocado! And here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado! And now here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado and did we also mention onions and cilantro?” But those are the flavors I most associate with Mexico, for one, and for two, who cares when the food is so good? The first thing I tried was the mussel tostada, and I don’t care a lick about mussels in my regular, non-Enrique-Olvera life, but these were plump and tender atop a tortilla crisp and coated in that creamy chipotle mayo given even more of a kick by the sliced peppers. The hamachi, so humbly presented, was actually deep layers of sour and umami with fish sauce, bold black lime, and fermented chilis. Acids were everywhere, lemons and grapefruits and tomatoes and pineapples. One of the stunners of the night was the cobia al pastor, served with a gloopy pineapple puree that I had a notion to scoop right out of the bowl with my finger, and fresh warm tortillas for making tacos. A review I read said that the tortillas were almost flavorless to provide a blank canvas for the proteins, but my group entirely disagreed and thought that the things the chef was doing with corn were his best things.

Unfortunately, we had to fight for those tortillas. Even though we were a table of six and were ordering all but four dishes off the entire dinner and dessert menus combined, our cobia came with two tortillas. Our plate of hamachi came with five pieces. The one dessert we didn’t order never showed up at the table for us to try with a wink from the chef like it would have in the NYC restaurants with the best front of house service. I’m not really complaining about the service–our server came back to talk with me about our bottle of Riesling from the Finger Lakes that I was really enjoying–but it seems like some communication must have been lost between the server and the chef along the way. Or maybe the chef really couldn’t spare one more piece of hamachi for us.

But back to the food. While most dishes did have similar intense, punchy flavors, there were two that tasted like nothing else on the menu: the burrata and the enfrijoladas. The burrata was so light, with herbs that tasted so green and fresh it was like the cheese and all had just been dug up from the garden. The enfrijoladas, which were kind of like enchiladas but with a bean sauce that reminded me of a mole in color and texture, had this hoja santa herb in it that imparted an anise flavor I didn’t find on the other plates. I would order both of these again for sure, along with: the sepia, where thick strands of the cuttlefish acted like noodles; the octopus cocktail, where someone who loves pickled red onions as much as I do was in heaven; the eggplant tamal with its wildly acidic topping; the posole, where rich ingredients met bright broth to make for one of the most complete dishes; the cobia, the hamachi, and of course that mussels tostada.

Up for debate is the duck carnitas, which was a hefty $58 for the amount of meat you’d find in a measly four tacos but had the most beautifully rendered fatty skin over succulent dark meat. We had to add the really, really excellent hot sauce from the chicharron and some salt flakes to the duck to make it perfect, and you can obviously get great duck for a tenth of the price all over the city, but if you’re already at Cosme and spending $19 on half of a stuffed avocado, just get the duck.

Not up for debate are the desserts, which ranged from very good to I’m-never-going-to-stop-thinking-about-this. Pastry chef Jesus Perea has worked everywhere from Chef Olvera’s acclaimed restaurant in Mexico, Pujol, to Del Posto under Brooks Headley to Le Bernardin to too many of the very best restaurants in NYC to name. The brioche smothered in ricotta was almost savory at first bite and didn’t seem very special, but then suddenly the smear of fresh peanut butter took over and made it this incredibly craveable thing. The sweet potatoes in the flan gave it natural sweetness, and coffee syrup somehow didn’t overpower the potato flavor, making this a great choice for someone who likes a simple, not-sugary dessert. The lemon cake was this entire bowl of citrusy brightness, all kinds of lip-puckering in different textures. The cinnamon cake was spicy to the point that it overpowered the cream cheese ice cream, which really needed to be eaten alone to appreciate it, and appreciate it I did. The tender carrot was nixtamalized, which is apparently the same process used to make corn into hominy. (That is, it makes it softer and more delicious.) Despite the interesting preparation, though, it didn’t have enough “pop” for some of our group, which we attributed to a lack of acid in the bowl. The chocolate ganache was a table favorite, on the other hand, with its perfect sphere of beet sorbet that made it look like a delicious spaceship. The mezcal lent the chocolate this almost funky flavor, like it had gone a little sour, but we somehow wanted to keep eating it; I’m guessing it’s the kind of dessert that you either absolutely love like we did or think is semi-disgusting. (And borderline disgusting is some of the most exciting food, right?) The star of the night, though, was this beautiful cracked husk meringue with corn mousse seeping from it. All of the reviews will tell you that this is the dessert to get, and they are correct. This will probably become the dish Cosme’s known for with its naturally sweet corn whip and meringue that immediately sticks in your teeth like wet cotton candy and then melts away just as quickly. I’ll never forget you, husk meringue, no matter how fleeting you were.

So is this the most relevant food in NYC right now? Well, in a way. It cemented my love of Mexican food and reminded me that the best flavors are often the simplest: a well-placed fresh herb or a slice of pickled red onion can so easily bring a dish to new levels. And the great news is that those things can be found all over the city in hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints where a taco costs two dollars instead of twenty. (Two of my favorites right now are Tacos El Bronco in Sunset Park, introduced to me by my friend Kim, and The Original California Tacqueria, introduced to the same friend and me one Friday night when we were drunk and wandering Cobble Hill.) But you’re probably not going to get chipotle mussels there, nor noodles of smoked sepia, nor that corn meringue. Cosme is the Mexican flavors you love in ways you never imagined.

Cosme
35 East 21st Street
New York, 10010 (map)

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