Tuesday, November 9, 2010

La Esquina Brasserie

Located in Nolita (north of Little Italy in the borough of Manhattan), La Esquina is a 3-in-1 venue : (1) taco shop 'Taqueria,' (2) cafe and (3) sit-down restaurant 'Brasserie.' This place has been around forever and I was happy to see it maintain its cool understated appeal. Laurie, Zack and I were all crammed into the tiny street-level taco shop waiting to be let in as 6pm-opening Brasserie reservation holders. 
La Esquina, 114 Kenmare Street (between Lafayette St & Cleveland Pl), 646-613-7100.
The doorman, in all black with an earpiece-n-clipboard, led us down dangerous stairs, through the kitchen and into a dark basement lined with tequila cages, open ceiling, old brick, ambient lighting and wrought iron accents resembling an artsy Mexican jail (?!). Music on was Florence And The Machine - yeah! The crowd was young, casual and hip.

Margarita pitcher.  We passed on the tequila pairing (we wimped out) and did margaritas. Top-notch service. It was a Monday night and a packed house by the time we ordered...

Ceviche Acapulco - tomato, jalapeno, lime, cucumber, chipotle, $12.  Little green circles you see are scooped mini cucumber balls! Fun! Fish was clean and fresh, easily one of the best things I've ever had.
Moros y Cristianos - black beans, rice, pico de gallo, $4.   This was total overkill considering everything else. Sheesh.
Camarones Taquitos - sauteed mayan shrimp, onion, peppers, chipotle salsa, $10.
Pollo Rostizado Taquitos - citrus-rubbed rotisserie chicken, cilantro, salsa verde, $10.  Spicy, amazing, addicting. Can't go wrong here.
Pescado Taquitos - char-grilled seabass, red onion, salsa verde, $10.  Fresh, flavorful, clean, traditional.
Contramar Tostada - raw tuna, smoked chili aoli, pepino, $12.  This was the highlight of the evening. Make sure you order a bunch of tostadas for the table. These were teeny two-bite tostadas on chips. Brilliant flavors and textures.
Mystery Tamale....  Insanely good vegetarian.
Quesadilla de Huitlacoche - Mexican "truffle," roasted corn, mushrooms, queso oaxaca, $11.   The BEST and most unusual quesadilla you'll ever have. Killer dip. A must order.
Ejotes - grilled string beans, $5.50.  Very good, but not as exciting as the others.
Plantanos Machos Fritos - plantains, salsa verde, queso fresco, $5.  Crazy good plantains. I have to find out how they do that.
Carne Asada - grilled Angus strip steak, gratin de rajas, chimichurri sauce, $28.  This was good, but not for the price, unless you have to have steak. All the smaller plates were much more interesting and fun to share. (We completely forgot about salads?!)
Margaritas flowing, we ended on some heavy talk...religion, god, life, the future ahead...TBC. After all this time, Monday night was still jammed packed and the food is still fab. Come to La Esquina for magical margaritas (or a long tequila night), fresh, high-quality Mexican-fusion in a chill edgy atmosphere. Overall awesome vibe. (Must make rez way in advance!)

La Esquina
(646) 613-7100
Located on the corner between Lafayette St & Cleveland Pl.
114 Kenmare Street 
New York, NY 10012
La Esquina on Urbanspoon

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