Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Epazote: Your New “Go-To” Mexican Eatery On The Upper East Side!

By: Anne M. Raso

I fell in love with the French-inspired Mexican of Epazote in Yorkville. I like the casual yet dusky atmosphere, complete with Day Of The Dead and rural Mexican colorized photos on the wall and friendly, efficient service, it’s definitely going to be your next “go-to” neighborhood eatery. The prices are right and many of the plates can be shared. They also have the classic guacamole called Guacamole Azteca ($13) made in a mortar and pestle in front of you and to your exact specs, which is the way a lot of people start off their meal. At their recent press tasting, I found the guac chef had over a dozen ingredients he could add to the classic mix of fresh avocado, salt, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice.

Of course, every great Mexican restaurant has its specialty drinks. I tried the two most popular (at $12 each): the sweet Senora Pina which was silver tequila, pineapple juices and jalapeno garnished a grilled pineapple and the Epazote, which features Epazote-infused Mezcal and has a smoky flavor. Soon after our drinks arrived, we dug into the four Salsa & Chips offerings ($4 each); Tomatillo (roasted sweet green tomatoes), De Cacahuate (roasted peanuts and tomato chile de arbol), Costena (poached dried chile costeno and roasted tomatoes with cumin) and Chile De Arbol (roasted tomatoes, garlic and dried chile). All four were delicious but I fell in love with the De Cacahaute because the strong peanut taste mixed with the tomato and tamarind base had a bit of a Thai accent to it and was definitely something very “different” in a Mexican eatery.
Epazote Cocktail
I then tried the healthy and fresh Ensalada De Nopals Y Manzana ($9), which is comprised of fresh cactus, apple slices, mixed greens and roasted shallots in a sherry vinaigrette. It was refreshing, light and the perfect way to ease into the next two courses which featured meat. I then ventured into the “Los Taquitos” section of the menu and tried the De Ternera Bohemia Style ($14)—veal cheek braised in Bohemian beer, sweet onions, Poblano peppers, cilantro and red radish. The soft flour taco was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet, soft and flavorful veal cheek, which was “pulled” into chunks. Also served on a soft taco shell was the De Pato ($14), which is slow cooked duck leg, apple, sweet onion, scallions and cilantro. I am normally not a fan of duck leg, but this was magical—the meat was so moist and luscious and the juicy flavor just melted together with the farm-fresh toppings.
Pollo Con Mole
I then had the delightful Pollo Con Mole ($24). No visit to a new Mexican eatery is complete without testing out their mole and Epazote’s was a knockout. This was simple roasted and sliced white meat with the delicious golden skin still intact, homemade mole, and a buttery spinach soufflé that was probably the highlight of my evening. Little touches like that show the clear French influence on these otherwise traditional Mexican Upper East Side spot.
De Ternera Bohemia
My dining partner and I finished with a sampling of all four desserts: a Bartlett Pear ($10) poached in tequila and served with Epazote syrup and Epazote vanilla ice cream; Gala Apple Crumb Tart ($9) with jalapeno chocolate ice cream, Guava Gelatin ($8) with Vera Cruz vanilla sauce and Homemade Churros ($7) served with Mexican abuelita chocolate sauce. You can also order their superb ice cream flavors alone at $6 per scoop, and the flavors usually available are vanilla, mango and Epazote.
Guacamole Azteca Station
I live only six or seven blocks from Epazote, so you can bet I will be back. Be sure to check out their covered garden in the back, which has eight or nine tables and is heated (I believe it will be open year round). There is a bit of a neighborhood bar crowd who come just for the terrific drinks, but it’s a shame if you don’t sit down in one of the comfortable banquets or tables and enjoy the friendly service, no-rush atmosphere and great eats by Executive Chef Agustin Sanchez!

1160 First Avenue
New York, NY 10028
(212) 968-1704
Cuisine: Mexican

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