Sunday, February 1, 2015

Masa Effect

Empellon's fancy little sister

When ex-wd~50 pastry chef Alex Stupak opened Empellón Taqueria less than a year ago, we warned you to expect some surprises.

And with Empellón Cocina serving a more upmarket version of his inventive Mexican fare, even we can't prepare you.

We can only tell you that, yes, the guacamole is $12, and no, it doesn't come with a lap dance. But it's damn fine even so.

Don't expect to know half the words on the menu. If you order the sweet potato chalupa with chorizo expecting some stale paper-wrapped taco, your mind will be blown by the fried block of masa dough brought to the table.

The menu's divided into mariscos (shellfish), vegetables, masa, queso, fish, and meat.

Go for a range: the lamb sweetbreads with longaniza sausage for your meat, the cheddar with pork loin for your queso — which comes with a bare smear of habanero salsa and repeated warnings from your server.

If you're like us, you'll ignore them. Be prepared to put out the fire with the aptly named No Sey cocktail, with reposado tequila, chipotle, and grapefruit.

And after a few of those, no sabemos nada, también.

Empellón Cocina
105 1st Ave. (6th St.), East Village
(212) 780-0999

Price: 3 (out of 4) Noise: 2 (out of 4)
Subway: L to 1st Ave.
Scene: A sparse room with skeletal portraits and perfect third-date ambience.
Best bets: Sweet potato chalupa; cheddar queso; No Sey
Hot seat: Go with a group and request the back table with a view of Stupak and co. making their Mexican mojo.
One tequila, two tequila: Be sure to explore the dozens of tequilas and mezcals on the menu, ranging from the smoky Chinaco anejo to the muy expensivo Deleón Diamante blanco.
Nearby: Mayahuel; Cienfuegos; The Bourgeois Pig

The Rundown's restaurant reviews are based on anonymous visits from reporters, not press releases.

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