Last Sunday morning I wandered across a listing for a taco-style brunch at EMPELLON TACQUERIA just blocks from my hotel in West Greenwich Village (230 West 4th St-www.empellon.com) and hit the jackpot.
Except for some loud music the place seemed deserted when I arrived at 11:45am (which is when they open).
The music never really got too subtle, but it wasn't blasting. The room has a long bar on one side, exposed brick on the other and is simple with some high tables in the middle. It was a chilly morning, and I warmed up with some cappuccino to start.
I was thrilled to see a variety of salsas including our recently discovered Sikil Pak (pumpkin seed Mayan) and was tempted to try the 7 salsas with chips as they are only $3 each or a steal for the bunch.
Instead I ordered up a JAPANESE MAGURO CEVICHE starter of white tuna, potato in a sea urchin-chipotle salsa that had a beautiful bite. The sauce was slightly creamy like a light slaw with thin radish slices on top.
My main course was LAMB BARBACOA Tacos-two soft tortillas layered with tender barbecued lamb, Salsa Borracha (pasilla Oaxaquena-cheese, orange juice, mezcal, onion, lots of cilantro and olives) as well as cucumbers. Here the kitchen knows how to treat heat with respect. The seasonings were hot, but subsided fast and were totally flavorful and enjoyable.
I was surprised when my server, Sam (for Samantha), brought over a complimentary dessert that wowed me over the top. I was stuffed, but had to eat the PASSION FRUIT TART made with creamy custard, fresh oranges and yummy whipped meringue dots that were mezcal infused and then quickly flamed brown. A splash of mezcal was on top to boot. YUM YUM!
I'll be back for more and if not here, to their sister spot COCINA Empellon in the East Village.
What is most interesting is that the chef and his wife, who is the pastry chef, both hail from Massachusetts! Nothing Latin in their blood!