Empellón Midtown, NYC

July 18, 2017

Alex Stupak opened Empellón Midtown in March 2017 while closing his Empellón Cocina in the East Village.  It soon got rave reviews. Pete Wells in the New York Times gave him three stars writing that it

“provides the fullest expression of his dreamscape vision of Mexican food. He doesn’t reproduce or translate the cuisine; he builds a fantasy version of it, coupling deep technical skills with imagination to create a slightly unreal version of reality, the way the best animated movies do.”   

Blair and I went for dinner on July 13, 2017.

We were seated downstairs in the two-level dining room. Blair could look into the noisy bar while I had a view of the open kitchen.

Chef Alex Stupak is standing at the left supervising.

We started with classic margaritas, although the drinks menu lists several variations. With them we had
Crab Nachos
with Sea Urchin “Queso”

These were good, although a bit messy for fingerfood with cocktails. The “queso” is not cheese at all, but it has a similar appearance to a Texas cheese dip for nachos. It’s actually a sauce made from sea urchin, butter, and chipotle chile.  The jalapeño rings could be eaten or not as desired. The crab was plentiful and its flavor excellent.

We made our choices from the quite limited, but interesting and varied, food menu. From the eclectic beverage menu we ordered a bottle of


This was nice, with complexity and forward fruit which went well with the cuisine.

Our taco was
Lamb Sweetbreads
with Lamb Barbacoa

The sauce in which the lamb had been slow-cooked on avocado leaves was restrained and good. The sweetbreads had a mild flavor, which was sometimes hard to distinguish. 

The first main course was
Short Rib Confit
with Picadillo Garnish.

The meat had been braised until it was falling apart. The sultana raisins in the garnish really worked well.

The second was
Crisp Pork Belly
with Chicharrón and Herbs.

The slices of pork belly had crispy skin edges. The whole dish was served in a giant fried pork rind, which could be pried (or broken) apart to eat and add crunch to a mouthful. This was okay, but not as good as it sounds; it lacked pizazz.

With our main courses we were served a stack of fresh warm tortillas. They were good and helpful, making the mains seem like two more taco courses. (We could have used this with the lamb tacos, which needed a second tortilla.)

Blair’s dessert was
Banana Ice Cream
with Jasmine Cajeta

Good banana flavor with a Mexican dulce de leche.

My dessert was
Avocado
with Lime, Olive Oil and
Eucalyptus Yogurt

This semi-frozen avocado parfait looks amazingly like half an avocado on a snowy bed of ice.  It is creamy and smooth with a definite avocado flavor.  Under the limeade ice is yogurt infused with eucalyptus. Superb.

The mignardises were tamarind chili gels.

Nice.

Well, this was fun, if not great cuisine. But the dishes were well conceived and well executed with good ingredients. The balance between Mexican authenticity and creativity was successful. The avocado was a tour de force which would stand out anywhere.

The service was friendly and good. The pace was fine, as we were not in a hurry. The noise level was appalling, which probably suited the young crowd. When the happy hour crowd at the bar thinned out, they ramped up the music. That alone is sufficient for me not to return.

https://www.empellon.com/empellon/

 

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