Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fish tacos in the Big Apple

I recently returned from a most lovely long weekend in New York City. In planning for my trip I had included Empellón's soft shell crab tacos in my culinary itinerary (in addition to amazing chocolate almond croissants at Ceci-Cela and fabulous pumpernickel bagels at Ess-a-bagel - lest you think I only enjoy fish tacos) after having read a most stellar review of them. However, I neglected to find out that they are only open for dinner and were booked into at least the following week. Oops.

Thankfully I was steered in a different fishy direction and headed to Hecho en Dumbo. The place started as a pop-up in 2007 operating several nights a week out of a local cafe in Dumbo, Brooklyn (so no, it's not named after a famous flying elephant) before moving across the river to the East Village and opening a restaurant in 2010. The decor is tasteful and spare in its industrial-chic vibe consisting of exposed brick walls and a wood-plank ceiling complete with steel air ducts. Matching the contemporary Mexican atmosphere, the food is appropriately urbane. The restaurant specializes in antojitos, otherwise known as small plates, so expect dainty portions and inventive cuisine.

The $11 Tacos el Alcalde on the menu sounded pretty amazing - a mélange of smoked sable fish, braised Spanish octopus, and fresh Gulf Shrimp, folded into a trio of flour tortillas with red and yellow pepper, tomato, red onion, queso fresco, and garnished with crisp fried Fish Chicharrón.  The three bite-sized tacos came fully stuffed with fishy goodness. They were amazingly flavored and juicy and had lots of spicy, smokey Spanish flavors. They were even better once you topped them with any of the accompaniments - a spicy red tomato salsa, a green tomatillo salsa, or pico de gallo. As for the house made tortillas, they were springy and perfectly salted. The only thing that was missing for me was a creamy sauce to hold the mélange together.

So if your travels take you to New York City, do check this place out. And be sure to sample other goodies on the menu, such as the chile relleno de atun and tostadas de ceviche, both of which were mouth wateringly delicious. The cocktails list definitely merits sampling as well, with only boutique tequilas on the menu. At $10+ each, the margaritas are a bit pricey, but they go down oh so smoothly without the gross sourness typical of cheaper swill. My fresh grapefruit and Cazadores tequila Paloma ($12) was both refreshing and potent.

354 Bowery
New York, NY 10012
(212) 937-4245

4.5 out of 5 fishies.

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