One of the cuisines that seems to have a never-ending list of restaurants for me to try is Mexican. New York City has so many different Mexican restaurants of all styles and I want to try them all. For a cuisine that has a reputation for being the same ingredients just presented in a different way, Manhattan finds a way to interpret this semi-exotic fare into all different types of restaurants. And so my never-ending search for the perfect Mexican meal continues … and I don’t really want it to end.
I’ve tried many of the NYC staples – Dos Caminos, Rosa Mexicana, Caliente Cab – and now I have a whole list of smaller, more unique places to dine. Ironically, I’m not sure how I found Crema. I think I forgot to note the source when I added it to my growing list of places to try. But I’m glad I found it, and made a reservation via Crema’s OpenTable page for a Friday date night.
The atmosphere made me a little apprehensive at first, because it had a sort-of fancy feel like it had tried to be an upscale restaurant five years ago but it didn’t work out. The tables and the bar were pretty empty, but it was 6:30 which is pretty early for Manhattan time. But margaritas were half off at the bar (but not in the dining room, despite what they deceivingly told us) and I had a good feeling when we finally sat down.
As the waiter proudly explained, the chef and owner, Julieta Ballesteros, is originally from Mexico but trained at the French Culinary Institute (my dream school) and both of these facts are apparent in her menu. The meals are quality Mexican food with a little bit of a twist. For example, the salad we started with, Ensalada Mixta, had familiar Mexican flavors of avocado, cheese, tortilla strips, and fresh corn (sliced from the cob), but it was finished with sesame seeds and peanut-chipotle vinaigrette. Each flavor worked together for a really unique salad that will have me coming back.
In addition to guacamole and complimentary samples of some really delicious soup with cilantro, we settled on a small serving of tacos. I had the fairly standard chicken tacos, AKA Tacos de Pollo, with guacamole, chipotle aioli, cotija cheese, and topped with sweet grilled pineapple. They reminded me of the amazing samples from Tacos & Tequila night at the Wine and Food festival. These were worthy of an award.
And of course Tom, being the adventurous eater that he is, had ordered the Alligator Tacos. I have to say, they weren’t bad. If you’ve never had alligator before, as I’m sure most of us northerners have not, it tasted similar to a fish taco. It was fried, which added to the more “familiar” flavor, but mixed with all the Mexican toppings and some barbecue sauce it was kind of delicious.
If you’re looking to try some traditional Mexican food with a bit of a unique flair, make a reservation at Crema!