March 8, 2012
- Food: Mexican Food
- Cost: $$$
- Wine / Cocktails:
From pastry chef at wd-50 to chef/owner of two of the hottest Mexican restaurants in town-a good move for Chef Alex Stupak! Chef Stupack's newest restaurant is Empellon Cocina. It is sophisticated and modern but has a warm feel about it with it's plush white banquette, kitchen towels as napkins and the open kitchen where you can see the chef and his staff hustling. This immensely talented young chef has created a menu that ignites the taste buds by combining various ingredients not all typically found in Mexican cuisine, at least not in the traditional sense.
The menu is designed for 'small plates' so you can order as many things as you like and the portions are definitely small. My friend and I started out with the Guacomole with Pistachios and Masa Crisps. The guacomole was good and the pistachios added a nutty flavor and crunchy texture, but the star here was the masa crisps. They were wonderfully light with a lovely golden brown, deep fried corn flavor. Like potato chips, I couldn't have just one! I also recommend trying some of the salsas offered on the menu - all good. Next we had the Mezcal (alcohol distilled from the Maguey plant, like an Agave plant), Cured Ocean Trout with Cream Cheese, Roe and Sal de Gusanos (Sal de Gusanos is 'worm salt', a combination of chile pepper, salt and roasted gusano (a caterpillar that lives off the agave plant) which was very good. The roe however, was too salty in unison with the Sal de Gusanos which is the Mexican version of Feur de sel. The Ruby Red Shrimp with Crispy Masa, Sea Urchin Mousse and lettuces was delicious; the Sea Urchin Mousse was particularly lovely. Next, we ordered two small plates (entrees), the Lamb Sweetbreads with Longaniza, Parsley Root and Salsa Papanteca (pumpkin seeds, piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar) and sweet spices). Longazina is a sausage similar to chorizo only spicier. We loved this dish! The combination of the spices, the sausage and pan fried sweetbreads was brilliant. The Wagyu Skirt Steak with Black Beans and Salsa Roja (red sauce made from tomatoes, chile peppers, onion, garlic and cilantro) was nicely cooked, though slightly bland. The rich salsa, however, complimented the under-seasoned steak. We did not have dessert so I can't comment about the pastry chef, who also happens to be Stupak's wife but, I will make sure to have some dessert the next time I eat there.
In conclusion, I loved this restaurant, the service was great and am thrilled to see this chef take Mexican food to a whole new level by using basic Mexican staples and spices, just kicked up about a thousand notches and successfully combining them with ambitious ingredients like lamb sweetbreads, tongue and duck.
While this is a pricey restaurant, this is not ordinary Mexican
food. To see a beautifully plated dish with unusual and interesting food pairings that turns out to taste as good as it looks is evidence that Chef Stupak is profoundly thinking about every aspect of his creations and with a little fine tuning, this restaurant could be worthy of a Michelin star.
This Review has been recommended by 1 person