Empellón in Midtown : Restaurant Review
It was a Friday and I was craving tacos and margaritas, but I didn’t want Blockheads (no shade to Blockheads… their guacamole is amazing!!!) however, I just wanted something different.
That’s when I pulled out my phone and searched best places to get tacos near me. Empellón was one of the places that showed up in the search. It was described as "Innovative Mexican Eats.” Now, I’ve seen a lot of trendy descriptions like "Asian-Mexican Fusion” or “ Modern Mexican American.” But, I'd never seen “Innovative Mexican." I didn't know what to expect, but in the spirit of serendipity I said, “LET’S TRY IT!”
The restaurant had lower and upper levels with high ceilings, with decor that was modern and eclectic. The atmosphere felt chic yet comfortable and tied in nicely the decor. The service was great and the host was friendly. I was seated and had my order taken within a few minutes. In regards to seating, I noticed that many of the tables were designed for two people so I recommend making reservations for a party of three or more if you're going after 6pm.
Now for the best part: the food. I ordered the Fish Tempura Tacos, the Sticky Rice Tamal with Red Chile Duck. The taco was made with locally caught dog fish (a boneless, white fish, used mainly for the fish and chips in Europe). The tempura battered fish was fried golden brown and paired with a cabbage slaw with lime mayo. To be honest, I was underwhelmed when the tacos arrived. I thought, for 16 dollars I was expecting a whole lot more, but after one bite I knew it was worth it. That first bite was the perfect combo of flavor and texture. The fish was moist and crispy from the tempura batter, the cabbage slaw was cool and crunchy, and the lime mayo added a subtle kick to tie everything together making for really great tacos. My experience with the tacos left me with high expectations for the Sticky Rice Tamal with Red Chile Duck and I must say it did not disappoint. Talk about being innovative! The Tamal was like part sushi roll and part tamale. They replaced the masa ( the normal filling in tamales) with rice, a flavorful tomato sauce and chucks of duck. It was rich, hearty and reminded me of my friend’s abuela’s bean sauce. Now for the duck, the thinly sliced pieces of roasted duck was tender and flavorful and was not as spicy as the name may suggest. It was a nice compliment to the lighter fish taco dish.
For my drink, I ordered the Apricot Margarita. After all, I came all this way for the tacos and margaritas. However, although it was inventive it wasn’t the best-tasting margarita. I wanted to try something different because I was on my “ try new things” wave, but it didn’t work in my favor this time. It was unpleasantly sweet, overpowering any other flavors that the drink may have had in it. My waiter was kind and asked if I’d like to order another drink, but I politely declined. All in all though, it was the food is what won me over at Empellón.
So, if anyone is ever in Midtown Manhattan and craving a twist on Mexican then I say definitely give Empellón a try.
Ciao for now,
P.S Have a restaurant you think I should check out or just want to say hi? Then leave me a comment below :)