According to most people from the West Coast, they can't find a good Mexican joint in NYC to save their lives. It is time to stop looking, not only is Empellon Cocina true to the cuisine of Mexico, it is absolutely delicious.
The space is beautiful, dimly lit and has a very trendy vibe running through the walls. Once you look past all the hip fixtures, you realize the true-to-Mexico interior design that exists within the restaurant. Mexican artwork is hanging up and Mayan hieroglyphics are painted on the walls of the bathrooms.
The Modern Ceiling that is fixated around the bar pops out and makes this the perfect place to go when you are in the mood to be part of a scene. The Virgin Mother sits high on a corner-shelf surrounded by candles, almost as if it is set up for a vigil. Although it seems like it would be out of place, it blends in well and truly fits the theme of this establishment.
The kitchen is seemingly open with a glass wall separating the diners from the kitchen. The glass gives a semi-blurred view into the back blocking it with a tinted glass covered with words like mole dulce and mole poblano in bold black letters making it impossible to clearly see into the space where the action happens.
In the dining room, a shelf hangs high on a silver-painted brick wall. Books rest upon it with a plastic-looking devil's head on top. This must signify the spices incorporated into the food because some of the dishes and salsas will set your mouth on fire.
The cuisine is authentic yet innovative and every dish we tried was amazing. The only downfall is that the plates are very small and pretty pricey. The Ruby Red Shrimp with Crispy Masa, Sea Urchin Mousse and Lettuces was really fresh with the perfect amount of spice. The masa stood tall on the plate with the shrimp delicately laying in the crevices of the crisp. It was so beautiful, we almost felt bad destroying it in order to get a taste of everything.
The Hazelnut Fed Pork Loin was served with hot to-the-touch tortillas, their achiote mustard and pickled red onion. Salsa was perfectly designed on the plate and put on the side was their house-made habanera salsa that is nothing to play around with. We were even warned ahead of time and it was still too hot to handle. The great thing about the salsa is despite its heat, you can still taste all the flavors and nothing is missed. Just make sure your water is full, you will need it. The achiote mustard and pork were a match made in heaven. The pork was silky smooth with a sweet, nutty flavor.
With Stupack being the former pastry chef of WD-50, we were extra excited to try dessert. The Vanilla Marquesote, a brown butter crumble topped with orange marmalade and cafe con leche ice cream was the perfect amount of sweet to end the meal. The way it falls apart in your mouth makes it hard to only have one bite.
Empellon Cocina is open 7 days a week, 5:30pm to 11:30pm.
As a little gift they give to you the recipe of their Achiote Mustard.
Here it is:
Courtesy of Empellon Cocina
2 oz Achiote Seeds (Note: Achiote is also known as the annato seed in the U.S)
4 each Unpeeled Garlic Cloves
10 each Allspice Berries
20 each Black Peppercorns
6oz Cider Vinegar
2c Prepared Whole Grain Mustard
1. Soak the achiote seeds in water for an hour.
2. Toast the garlic in a dry skillet until its soft and aromatic. Allow the garlic to cool and peel away the blackened skin.
3. Grind the allspice and black pepper in a spice grinder.
4. Strain the achiote seeds and discard the water they were soaked in.
5. In a blender combine the achiote, roasted garlic, spices, vinegar and mustard and blend until smooth.