Sunday, March 30, 2008

La Esquina

Through a late-night taqueria, past a burly security man, a door marked, "employees only," down a set of stairs and through the kitchen, one can find one of New York City's most stylish dining destinations, La Esquina. The gothic underground vault, bedecked with wrought iron gates and candelabras, is filled with the fashionable, the elite, and those who appreciate good food and only the best tequila.

One might ask, how did we end up here?

We knew someone who knew someone who had a cousin who owned the place. And we "embelished" the truth in saying that we were trendy writers and publishers (well, grad students write...) Overwhelmed by distressed wood and exposed brick, we were seated at large heavy plank wood tables and served course after course of delicious Mexican food.

The fresh salad greens with queso fresco and mustard vinaigrette whetted our appetites along with the ceviche made with fresh fish, tomato, avocado, jalapeno and lime, tostados with lump crabmeat, mango and chipotle mayo, and spicy quesidillas filled with mushroom, roasted corn and queso oaxaca. Pitchers of margaritas were constantly replenished. For the main course we were served perfectly cooked whole shrimp with honey lime glaze and chipotle corn slaw, adobo char-grilled steak tacos with cilantro, charred onions and salsa de chile de arbol, rotisserie chicken tacos, and sides of sauteed string beans, black beans, rice and pico de gallo. Despite the many meatarian options at the table, I was tempted to gorge myself on the fabulous chiles rellenos, smoky roasted poblano peppers stuffed with an incredibly delicious concoction of organic quinoa, manchego cheese, calabaza and tomato caldo.

By the end of the meal we were filled to the brim with both food and booze, and it just kept on coming. The heavenly pastel de chocolate "cafe de olla" was an earthen bowl filled with warm chocolate cake, espresso, cinnamon and creme fraiche ice cream, the capirotado de caieta was a bread pudding of figs, raisins smothered in a delicious brandy sauce. The creme cocida was a Mexican version of panna cotta made with crema fresca and served with poached pineapple.

The decadence, the atmosphere and the incredibly good homemade food, made for one unforgettable meal. Fortunately, not everyone has to know a relative of the owner or make up stories about their trendiness to try the food. The taqueria upstairs serves tacos, salads, soups and other plates. They also serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays (this menu includes the desserts.)

So really, one doesn't *have* to be rich and famous to try some of the best Mexican food in NYC. Then again, it probably wouldn't hurt.

Only in America.

Image lifted from

La Esquina
106 Kenmare St
New York, NY 10012
(646) 613-7100

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