Chef Enrique Olvera’s new high end Mexican restaurant has been all the buzz in New York City.
There’s been much speculation on just how innovative and expensive Mexican cuisine can be. I had to go and find out for myself especially since it’s in Flatiron, one of my favorite neighborhoods.
I’ve seen first hand how the bar area can be packed like sardines, and the overflow affects the big communal table by the door. So I was very happy to find out that we were going to be sitting in the dining area in the back, which was nice and quiet. The dark lighting gave the place a clubby ambience, but bright lights shone on the dinner table so that we could enjoy all the vibrant colors of the food.
To start, I heard that the margaritas were excellent, so I had to try them. Cosme uses siete leguas tequila, which was incredibly smooth. I am normally not a tequila drinker, but this went down like water. I would find out the next morning that it was deceptively strong.
They start everyone off with blue corn chips: 7/10 It comes with what I thought I heard to be a habanero sauce, but it wasn’t spicy at all. The chips usually come thick and flavorful and sharp, not blurry like my photo.
Guacamole: 7/10 There’s nothing too special about this guac. It’s a little on the light side, and the avocados were creamy and fresh. Maybe Cosme wanted to distinguish itself from the more pedestrian establishments and did not even put this on the menu. But they understood that people will order it anyway and made sure that they could deliver. I wonder though – if I had ordered horchatas, would they have had that as well?
Chicharron: 9/10 the radishes and vegetables brought a lightness to fried pig skin, which is a great contrast to the usual spicy powders that are usually dusted on chicharrons. The skin is popped like air. The piece is as big as my head, but had no hard grisly parts. Even when I eat smaller chips, I usually bump into a piece that’s hard to chew. I was extremely impressed.
Stuffed avocado: 7/10: I thought this was solid, but some people at the table loved it. It was a very fresh avocado just like the one in the guacamole. In fact, the avocados throughout this meal were SO consistent that I wonder if they have a special avocado farm. The salsa in the middle had octopus, scallops, and either clams or oysters (someone fished out something, but I didn’t get a good close look). It tasted like a seafood ceviche that I would have on the beach, but all the ingredients were as fresh as can be.
Uni tostada: 6/10: I loooove uni. I love it so much that I might steal some uni out from under my own mother. But this was a really strange preparation for it. First, I couldn’t taste any bone marrow in the bone marrow salsa. Second, the hard shell with the soft uni was a bad pairing. I like having texture contrasts, but while my teeth were working on breaking apart the sharp edges of the shell, the uni would end up distributed randomly in my mouth. Lastly, my uni had a little bit of a fishy smell. Maybe it sat out for a little too long.
Hamachi: 6/10 Great fresh fish, great flavoring, but doesn’t this look a little familiar? it’s awfully similar to Nobu’s famous yellow tail jalapeño dish. The cut of fish were much bigger and thicker – extra big sushi size in fact, but I think Nobu’s fish size to fish thickness to sauce to jalapeño ratio is darn near perfect, and this one seems like a poor imitation instead of a new interpretation. The fish was much too big to carry the flavor of the sauce, and the jalapeños were much too small to make an impact on the bite.
Octopus: 3/10 Overcooked. I had trouble chewing through it. The sauce was okay, but come on.
Cobia: 10/10 The cobia is recommended with a soft taco and a collop of pineapple sauce. The delicate fish is cooked al pastor. The beautiful smokey flavor envelopes your senses that moment you bring it up to your face, and the fish disappears in a wisp. I wish the portions were much bigger for whopping $24.
Eggplant tamales 4/10: I decided that I really don’t like tamales. It always tastes already been chewed to me. I don’t know why it cuts so easily with a spoon, and yet always tastes so dry.
Ayocote bean salad 6/10: It’s just a bean salad. I remember very little about this dish. it was very lightly seasoned, and it highlighted the flavors of the beans well. But the leafy greens and radishes are quickly becoming a theme, and in this case, they did nothing for the dish.
Lobster 6.5/10: I don’t know what happened to the picture here. The lobster was cooked okay. Once again we have the salad with the radishes. The lobster was on a bed of black bean which was good just like the lobster was good, but the two made no sense together.
NY strip steak for tacos 5/10: I told everyone that I didn’t want to order this because I had already received intel that it’s not very good, but everyone insisted. How can steak be bad? Well it’s not bad per se. It’s just that this is the same steak that anyone can cook, only 70% of it is missing. It has no flavor and has no business being stuffed into a flavorless wrapper, and then we had to split this wimpy portion among six people. I think this deserves a “I told you so.” Take your $35 and donate it to charity people.
Duck carnitas for two 8/10: This is great dish. Half a duck is slowly simmered in a bed of its own fat. It’s so soft that you can rip it apart with a light pull of the fork. After a quick mix, it looks like this:
Even though it came with three sauces, I think it could have been better with some more bold spices and more toppings. Someone suggested that maybe it needed a little cream. Okay I admit it. That would have worked. So would have some kind of fruit, something citrus, or something spicy – anything to add to the duck flavor. All in all it was the only correctly portioned dish, and had a great fatty melt in your mouth feel.
Corn husk meringue 5/10: Or should I say, the *famous* corn husk meringue. Ever since the opening of the restaurant, this dessert has been featured in every article. It’s a corn foam oozing out of a light eggshell-like meringue. It seems to be a creative feat of gastronomy or culinary chemistry. But it tastes strange. I love my corn, but delivered in air form it seems to have lost some of its earthiness. It was also seasoned with both salt and sugar. If you’ve ever made creamed corn and gotten the balance just wrong so that it’s too pungent, then you know the flavor I’m talking about.
Carrot cinnamon spice cake 6/10: It was a little dry. It was more of a carrot cinnamon blondie. I enjoyed the caramelized carrot though.
Lemon cake 4/10: This was pretty standard and boring. It was also a little dry, and the ice cream was too creamy to soften the cake.
Cosme was a fun meal. But because my boyfriend went before and gave me the rundown on what was good and what was not, I avoided some bad dishes. He did not like the steak, scallops, or sepia. Because of the warning, I also read a few reviews and decided to plan the meal far in advance. The worst three dishes I had were ones that others orders that didn’t make it onto my list: the steak, eggplant tamale, and octopus. The lack of room for error also takes away the joy of discovering a new dish or preparation, which is something I love in a restaurant. The most innovative dish, the corn husk meringue, lacked the ultimate character: great flavor.
In the end I have to give this place a 6.5/10, because although some of the dishes were good, it’s not feasible for most people to visit on their own budget. The food cost far more than they were worth. If I were to go on my own budget, I’d get the chicharron, cobia, duck (which by the way went up by a dollar since 3 days ago!!), 2 margaritas, and most importantly…. a massive lunch beforehand.