There’s always a level of excitement about heading to New York; at first, it’s restrained, but as you get closer to arrival, the excitement ratchets up.
For me, part of the excitement is trying to figure out which of the city’s more amazing restaurants I’ll try to get into. It’s a task made difficult by virtue of a 12-hour time zone difference, and not all restaurants having electronic bookings available.
Of course, I usually start at the better-known restaurants, always hoping for that elusive seat at world #1 Eleven Madison Park (no luck again). Equally, searching for a table at any of the other notable NYC restaurants that grace the world’s 50 best restaurant list.
Mexican fine dining restaurant Cosme was a spot that I made numerous attempts to get into prior to my travel, with zero luck. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was able to book a table for lunch at chef Enrique Olvera’s first restaurant outside of his native Mexico. What was actually incredible was that I was able to book my table the day before, with no problems at all…
Go figure?! I guess it’s easier to book inside the States than it is from outside… mmmm…
Anyway, Cosme was conveniently located a short walk from my hotel at Union Square, which meant that I had a pleasant walk in the spring sunshine to work up an appetite. Like many NYC restaurants, the facade of Cosme was unassuming, a black tent-like staging area mostly hid the restaurant. Upon walking into the restaurant, I was impressed with Cosme’s huge size and styling; very modern, with high ceilings and scant lighting, making it at once comfortable and sexy.
I was shown to my seat and given a run through of the menu by an effervescent waiter who seemed hyper-excited that it was my first visit and set about impressing the heck out of me with his knowledge of the menu. The single page was split out into four main sections, with food sizings that increased in price (as assuming size) as you traversed the page.
Given it was my first (and possibly last) visit, I asked my dining guide (waiter) what he would recommend; making him super happy when I accepted all of his recommendations 🙂
My first choice of Seafood black aguachile with red onion and avocado was well hidden by a massive black corn chip. Once I lifted the corn chip, a simple and elegant presentation of sliced avocado and red onion sat atop a ceviche of fresh fish mixed with a chilli infused squid ink.
The idea was to break up the corn chip, then use it to scoop up the food as well as a textural balance to the otherwise soft and squishy fish and avocado. I loved the simplicity of the dish, but as I slowly consumed the bowl, there was an accumulation of heat from the chilli that was only partially cooled by the avocado. By the time I’d finished, my lips were tingly and I’d broken out into a light sweat 🙂
Where I thought my first dish had been rustic and quite interactive, my second dish was much more refined and reflective of a traditional fine dining restaurant – but then it quickly became apparent that it was also interactive! The Cobia al pastor with pineapple puree with cilantro was beautiful. But of course, being a Mexican restaurant, the dish was to be eaten as a taco, so I started to pile pieces of the expertly cooked fish and pineapple puree into the soft corn tortilla. It was an interesting dish when each of the pieces was tasted individually, they were a little bland; but when combined, the magic occurred and the combination of subtle fish, sweet puree and a slight citrus hint from added cilantro.
I really enjoyed the dish, with the building the tacos and the slight mess I left behind. I ended up stretching the dish to five tacos, and wish I could have made more!
My final savoury dish was a spectacle in and of itself, the many components of the Duck carnitas with onions, radishes and cilantro were spread out over the table; with further instructions on how to consume….. you guessed it, more tacos 🙂
The dish was insanely good, the sweet flesh of the duck was soft and juicy, with plenty of sections of crispy duck skin to add texture and a caramelised sweet hit to the dish. Combining the elements was delicious, sweet notes predominant throughout, however, it wasn’t until the second taco that I added a squeeze of lime, which elevated the taco to levels of flavour that I’d never experienced in a simple taco… There was a lot of food in the cast iron skillet that sat in front of me, but not once did I consider not finishing every tiny morsel of food…
It was sensational, but I couldn’t help reflect that the majesty of the dish was lost on a solo diner; the duck was a dish made for sharing, and I think I lost something by not being able to share the dish with someone (the girl).
My final dish of the day was chef Enrique’s signature dessert of Husk meringue with corn mousse; a transfixing dish that comprised of a ‘husk’ of merringue cracked open so the slightly savour corn mousse oozing out across the plate. Finished off with a dusting of burn corn snow, the perfect blend of sweet and savoury combined to dazzle the palate.
The meal passed at a relatively brisk pace, I never really sat around for too long before my empty plates were whisked away, only to be replaced with my next course. This would ordinarily be fine if dining with a companion, but as a solo diner, I did feel that I was eating just a little bit quickly…. I’d have appreciated a little while for my food to settle.
That being said, I absolutely adored the food and the mix of casual Mexican eatery combined with refined fine dining quality food. What surprised me most though was that the restaurant wasn’t full; something that was unusual for a Friday lunchtime; and more so since I’d struggled to find a table when booking from my hometown of Hong Kong…..
But perhaps most perplexing part of my meal at Cosme had nothing to do with the meal itself; but the fact that a restaurant as good as Cosme, a restaurant that was currently sitting at #40 in the #Worlds50BestRestaurants, could not pull in a single Michelin Star…
Go figure 😐