Whenever Matt and Jen come to visit, food is pretty much the only objective. Fine by me. Food is always my objective, whether they’re in town or not. Jen is always determined to try only the hottest and best places when they return to their old stomping grounds.
There are now three restaurants in the Empellon empire. I had been to taqueria before and enjoyed it, but I had heard cocina was a different (maybe even better?) experience. Albert seems to have preferred taqueria because he loved the tequila that flowed throughout his dinner. I agree, the bar has a stronger presence at that restaurant, but the I may have preffered the food at cocina. The prices are about the same ($28 for an entree), but I feel like you get more on your plate at cocina. And it’s good food, so of course I want more of it, if possible.
I don’t want to dismiss the chips and salsa just because they’re free. The chips are large, extra thin flatbread crisps (my brain tells me they’re corn tortillas but they are so much thinner and better than that) and one of the salsas was a creamy, mustardy (maybe?) something. I couldn’t stop eating it. Thankfully someone ordered a round of three starters before I stuffed myself with the chips and salsa. More thankfully, all those starters are eaten with those same chips: guacamole with pistachios, deviled egg filling with trout roe (the filling is the part we all care about anyway, right?), and crushed white beans and shrimp. The white bean/shrimp dish was probably my favorite and also the only thing I got a picture of all night. I was concerned the flavor would be too much shrimp or white bean, but the tastes and textures merged without becoming mush.
For the entrees we ordered the bacon (pork belly, really) with pine nut picadillo, the chorizo stuffed chicken, the pork skirt steak (spicier than anticipated but with a welcomed huge hunk of avocado), and the lamb belly tacos. My favorite was the bacon. This ain’t a side for eggs. It’s sweet with a fall-off-the-bone (even though there is no bone) feel. My second favorite was the lamb tacos. The lamb arrives in a large, round Le Creuset pot. My only complaint is that the fixins were minimal and definitely not enough to cover the six tacos this dish provides. And you want to use those toppings, which include cucumbers, cilantro, lime, queso fresco, and olives. The olives were unexpected but worked so well with the lamb.
Though some dishes were tough to split between five people, we had a wonderful communal dining experience. We definitely redeemed ourselves from our Alder dinner. We may be the only five people in NYC who didn’t love Alder. No matter, this meal more than made up for it.