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Manhattan

Centrico: Beauty is Only Skin Deep

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Restaurants & Bars Manhattan

Centrico: Beauty is Only Skin Deep

c
cimui | | May 1, 2007 05:18 PM

Prowling around for good Mexican in the city has become something of a personal crusade full of hope, disappointment, love lost, love found, blood, tears, rock & roll, passionate affairs, murder--oh you get the point. Centrico might be one or more of these things, but it is certainly not a love found.

It is an attractive space, very Tribeca, all wide glass windows, shiny copper topped tables. (If we ate only with our eyes, we’d be in good shape.) Unfortunately, the food itself was mostly mediocre and the service was downright bad.

First off, the food: We had Ancas De Rana (frog legs with cilantro oil and calabacitas con queso) and sopes for appetizers. The calabacitas, sautéed zucchini and tomatoes, was well made, but the frog legs served with them were absolutely bland, tasteless, and devoid of spice, salt, sauce. Sopes lacked that nice toasted crust and were doughy and tough. They also came without what are, to me, two crucial ingredients: tomatoes and onions (did the kitchen run out??). Guacamole and cheese, alone, do not a good sopes make.

Main courses fared better. My braised short ribs in jalisco-style ancho chile broth (Birria En Estilo Jalisco) were properly tender, but the dish was unidimensional in flavor. The meat came in a thinnish broth / sauce—no ancho that I could detect—that could’ve really benefited from being reduced by 1/3. There were two tiny pieces of carrot served with the dish, a half-hearted attempt at vegetable matter. The dish came with what could have at one point been delicious homemade tortillas, but they had been reheated one too many times (previous diners’ leftovers?!) and came to me leathery, hard, and absolutely inedible. I couldn’t flag the waiter down to get another basket.

My SO’s roasted duck breast with spicy red fruit sauce and asparagus (Pato En Manchamanteles) was better. It came medium rare without the waiter having asked his preference (good for me, but he prefers medium). There was no heat whatsoever to the dish, but the fruit sauce was a good combination of sweet and sour. There were jarred sour cherries in them. Though the four or five small slivers of asparagus were pretty token, they were delicious—probably in part because I was starved for vegetable matter at this point.

Had the food been brilliant, I would have minded the poor service less. As it was, there was little mitigation. Though the restaurant was 1/3 empty at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night and we had reservations, we were told to wait at the bar for almost ten minutes because the host was chatting with a table. Then, when we were finally seated, it took near twenty minutes for someone to take our order. There were lots of staff scampering around, but they seemed to be immersed in their own, comi-tragic water drills, filling water glasses that did not need to be refilled and studiously avoiding everyone's gaze. The surrounding tables also had difficulty getting attention.

The verdict: food was originally good in concept, but deeply lackluster in the execution. It’s not destination dining and not even somewhere I’d come for a fun few drinks (overpriced, small, sugary ones) if I lived in the nabe – because after a while, the slow, indifferent service really just wears you down.

Centrico
211 W Broadway
New York 10013
(at Franklin St)

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