Saturday, June 2, 2007

True or False: Great Mexican in Manhattan?

True. To be exact, in the area where the Lower East Side meets Chinatown at a quintessentially downtown Manhattan resto called Barrio Chino (imagine a cozy space with exposed-brick walls that seats probably no more than 3 dozen including spots at the roughly hewn wood bar).

My California (and other) friends agree: There's just no place like it. No Cal-Mex burritos served here. Rather, this is a taco and tequila bar dishing up authentic Mexico City-style eats—this according to my Gourmet editor friend who spent years in that very town, part of it running a cooking school. In fact, she's the one who introduced me to Barrio.

I had been dreaming of the to-die-for chile en nogada (a poblano chile stuffed with spicy shredded pork drizzled with a walnut-cream sauce and studded with diced apple and pomegranate seeds). I've probably had it at least a dozen times, almost never straying from its siren call. Yes, it's THAT good. So, I was dead-set on ordering it this time 'round. But to my great dismay, it was nowhere on the lunch menu. Ah well, c'est la vie. All thoughts of the chile flew out the window when the dishes including the guac and chips, sopesitos, chile rellenos, quesadillas and shrimp tacos hit the table. None of the 4 of us could shut up about how spicy, delicate, fragrant (fill in the blank with ecstatic superlative) the food was—except for when we were stuffing our faces. Washed down with some delightfully coco-minty coconut mojitos, the meal more than exceeded my expectations. Wowza.

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