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Sneakeater

Casa Enrique

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This is a well-regarded, fairly new Mexican restaurant across the street from the Chocolate Factory in LIC. It stands to reason that it's owned by the same people who own Cafe Henri a few blocks away in LIC; what was less obvious to me is that they also owned the Cafe Henri that until very recently was open on Bedford St. in the West Village.

 

This is a worthy restaurant. Ingredients are fresh. Cooking is fairly precise. Flavors are subtle and layered. It's as good a representation of Mexican food as you're likely to find in New York City.

 

Unfortunately, though, I'm going to take this perfectly worthy restaurant -- well worth spending your dining dollar at -- and use it to illustrate Rancho Gordo's recent statement that there's no real Mexican food culture in New York.

 

Mexican food in New York is in the unfortunate place Italian food was until, say, the late '90s. As with Italian, there is no such thing as "Mexican" cuisine. There are a bunch of regional cuisines, having more or less resemblence to one another, that are grouped together only because the regions are grouped together into a nation.

 

There is also a very delicious but not particularly elevated immigrant-inspired mongrel cuisine that, at least until recently and probably still today, stands for the native cuisine in the popular mind. This is being supplemented -- but not supplanted -- by restaurants seeking to provide food that is more "authentic". They don't do it by going wholly regional, however. Rather, the menus are amalgams, featuring dishes from different regions and dishes that split the difference. Unlike current NYC Italian food, however -- that's why Mexican is still in the "bad old days" here -- the chefs are not yet confident enough in their clientele to create distinctive dishes in the idiom. "Authentic" Mexican food is still stuck in the days of "Northern Italian".

 

So the menus tend to be deracinated -- and the food, even at its best, does, too.

 

The chef at Casa Enrique is Chiapan. How nice if there were more than one or two Chiapan dishes on the menu. How nice if the rest weren't mostly well-prepared versions of conceptually bland adaptations of general-purpose "Mexican" cooking to perceived American "restaurant" tastes.

 

As it is, though, this is still one of the better places to eat in LIC.

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Two questions: one, why are you in LIC? Are Bklyn & the outer borough of Manhattan not enough? And,secondly, what do you hear about Hecho en Dumbo? We haven't been in the several years since they moved from Dumbo, but I remember the owner saying almost the same as Rancho & talking about, for their part, focusing on Mexico City street food as their specific offering. Have they become generic or dumbed things down. Should I get over there or stick to the rustic in Sunset Park?

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I was at a performance at the Chocolate Factory across the street.

 

The one time I ate at the dreaded Manhattan location of Hecho en Dumbo, I thought it was still quite good. That was a few years ago, though.

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I was at a performance at the Chocolate Factory across the street.The one time I ate at the dreaded Manhattan location of Hecho en Dumbo, I thought it was still quite good. That was a few years ago, though.

Hmm.... Might be a good group dinner site.

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Went here last night. Sneak's description is accurate. But I particularly want to stress this part:

 

This is a worthy restaurant. Ingredients are fresh. Cooking is fairly precise. Flavors are subtle and layered. It's as good a representation of Mexican food as you're likely to find in New York City.

 

And for that reason alone it's worth a visit.

 

We tried the guac (good), chiles in corn crema (excellent), tacos al pastor (very good), chicken in mole (excellent), crab tostadas (very good), tres leches cake (good), and some margaritas (very good). Their biggest flaw, in my opinion, is that their tortillas are just average - just kind of a bland filler.

 

So do they deserve a Michelin star? Well, if Zabb Elee and Cafe China have one...

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"It's as good a representation of Mexican food as you're likely to find in New York City" strikes me as damning with faint praise, actually. And the rest of Sneak's post elaborates on that sentiment. Surely we can do better now?

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It's an objectively good restaurant, just not a great restaurant. We really can't do better just yet. Well, maybe Cosme (but you'll spend double).

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Maybe a little bit less good -- but not a lot less.

 

Is on a similar level to Papatzul on Grand Street in Soho -- a highly underrated place that I wouldn't be surprised to learn has declined into a Margarita mill in the years since I've been there.

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Wow, haven't thought about Papatzul in a long time. Remember enjoying the food, but actually surprised it's still around.

 

Has anyone here been to El Atoradero? Less expensive and less "fancy" than Casa Enrique. And one of the rare restaurants to be priced out of the Bronx -- expect a mob scene once it reopens in Brooklyn.

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