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Empellon Cocina Review

kathryn | Feb 27, 201209:32 AM

We had a very good meal here last night. The service was very good, the room had a pleasant sound level, and the seating was very comfortable.

We had a male server with dark, short hair, a beard, and very thick rimmed glasses, who was very pleasant and thorough in explaining some of the esoteric cocktail ingredients to us. My husband ordered the Sweep the Leg (Karate Kid reference!), a tequila cocktail with jackfruit which was delicious, boozy, and smoky. I ordered the Rooster's claw, which I believe had tequila, habanero, and mango. Fruity and very spicy. There's no cocktail menu online, alas, so I can't remember the rest of the ingredients. But a lot of the drinks lean towards the smoky and spicy, in order to stand up to the bold flavors in the food (this approach reminds me quite a bit of Fatty Cue WV).

Mezcal Cured Ocean Trout with Cream Cheese, Roe and Sal de Gusanos was delicious. I love ocean trout and I love mezcal. It seemed like the unholy Mexican child of Russ & Daughters and Momofuku Ssam Bar, who does similar creative raw fish dishes. Both the trout and roe had that lovely, distinctive mezcal flavor. A nice, refreshing start to our meal, and we scraped the plate clean.

This would become a theme as I used my knife to scrape every last caramelized bit of cheese from the cast iron pan for the Melted Tetilla Cheese with Lobster, Tomate Frito, and Kol (Yucatan style
white sauce). Served with fresh, hot tortillas. Gooey and delicious. The lobster was expertly cooked and melded well with the cheese and spots of tomato, which resembled more of a tomato jam.

The Gordita with Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Egg Yolk was also excellent. We were advised to cut the puffy, piping hot gordita in half, and let the egg yolk ooze out and cover everything. The crumbly chorizo was delicious, and I could tell the care that had gone into making the excellent gordita wrapper itself. A little chewy and bursting with great corn flavor.

Squid with Heirloom Potatoes, Chorizo Mayonnaise and Black Mole (chihuacle negro, 29 other ingredients) was also good but didn't seem to mesh. The white, skinny squid ribbons were cooked perfectly. Sweet and tender, and the squid worked well with the mole sauce, but I couldn't really figure out the chorizo mayo and chunks of heirloom potato. Together they tasted a bit like upscale papatas bravas, maybe there is some connection I'm missing. This dish was good but not a home run like the two previous ones.

Lamb Sweetbreads with Longaniza, Parsley Root and Salsa Papanteca (pumpkin seeds, piloncillo, sweet spices) was also good . The breaded and fried sweetbreads were warm and also very tender and creamy on the inside, and topped with crisp raw radish slices and cilantro leaves. The longaniza seemed more like a blood sausage. Earthy and dark, it contrasted nicely with the sweetbread nuggets. This dish was also beautiful to behold, served in a bowl with a very wide rim, and streaks of savory and slightly spicy sauce hugging the inside of the bowl.

Sweet Plaintain Shortcakes with Cajeta & Crema were adorable, as the shortcakes were plated to look like hamburger buns, with a compote between as a patty. Tasty but slightly too sweet, and we were unable to finish.

Overall, a very promising meal. The smaller plates seemed more strong than the larger plates, and we didn't try any of the salsas, but this was a very good meal for a restaurant that is so new. We'll be back.

Empellon Cocina
105 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

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