For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…
Most people in the food world thought pastry chef Alex Stupak had gone crazy when he decided to quit his job at acclaimed restaurant wd-50 to open up his own taco restaurant. And perhaps the chef is a bit eccentric, but the critically acclaimed restaurant has spawned a sister spot (Empellón Cocina), lots of crowded evenings, and an inclusion on Time Out’s list. So he must not be completely off his rocker.
We came for a late brunch since we were in the neighborhood and we’re terrified of crowds (I think I worry that I’ll be recognized). There are a few of the regular dinner items available, but it’s mostly refined Mexican versions of classic brunch dishes at this hour.
For the breakfast side, we tried the Baked Egg Whites with roasted potatoes, black kale, and jack cheese. With the smoky tomato sauce and the stretchy cheese, it tasted like a cross between huevos rancheros and manicotti. I’d say that’s a good thing.
The other dishes we chose would have to be classified more as lunch items. We started out with wondrous chunky guacamole (the best I’ve had in a long time) that was generously served with a spicy chili arbol and an awesome sweet and smoky cashew salsa. This played on all the flavors I like and was truly a standout.
I might have chosen the lamb barbacoa taco (or the lobster version if we were here for dinner), but it was the beer braised tongue tacos that were on Time Out’s list and so that’s what was put down in front of us. We got two (although I believe three are available at dinner) tacos in a very refined and artistic presentation.
The thin and toasted flour tortillas boasted an airy and firm texture, which enabled them to fully support the other ingredients. The chili-like stew of tongue was about as tender as tongue can get, although I couldn’t taste much of the beer. It did give off a smoky and slightly gamey flavor that was well-balanced with the salty cotija cheese and spicy arbol drizzle. I only wished there was some crunchy sweetness. Maybe it’s because the cubed potatoes looked so much like apples or pears, that my mind kept hoping for that.
Along with a fantastic passionfruit tart with meringue for dessert (made not by Stupak, but by his wife), this was one of the more unique and memorable brunches we’ve had in a while. So if this talented young chef is indeed crazy, I think we need more craziness in the world.
Would Empellón’s Beer Braised Tongue Tacos make my Top 100 of the year? I guarantee you that guacamole will, but the tacos get a 7 out of 10 since they were certainly well-composed and the usually tough tongue was tender, but I wanted more beer and sweetness. Story of my life.
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