So you think you've tasted real Mexican food. But have you? A recent surge of Mexican eateries would suggest that you probably have, yet many restaurants that claim to be authentic still offer the foods popularized by the fast food or tex-mex food culture. I don't blame these restaurant owners because it's the simplest and surest way to capitalize on customers that want some "Mexican Food". Yet, I truly respect the restauranteurs that are keeping it real and pioneering the authentic Mexican food movement. Today I’m going to tell you about one of these places.
Toloache (251 W 50th St New York, NY 10019 (212) 581-1818) is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in New York, and it’s also a flower that is used to make love potions. While you might wonder whether they spiked our drinks to make us fall in love with the place, there was no love potion needed. The environment is very warm and welcoming; it makes me feel as if I am at a family member's house. Sitting at the food bar made us feel more at home as we interacted with the woman in charge of making the guacamole along with some other key dishes including our carefully chosen grasshoppers (I know you just can't wait but keep reading).
There is a choice of three different types of guacamole but one stood out to our fire breathing liking. The Rojo-Spicy is made with the usual suspects (onion, avocado, tomato) and chipotle peppers served with queso fresco on top. For the record, this is one of the better guacamoles i've tasted even if it looks like it’s been sitting all day because of it's dark color. Thankfully, the color is from the dark red color of the chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeños).
Toloache is also where I first tasted huitlacoche (corn smut) which is a fungus that grows on corn. It may sound gross but it has the deepest, richest flavor of any plant or mushroom I have tasted. Here's a picture of how it looks on corn. But really, the pairing of the huitlacoche and the acidic nopales in these tacos made for an instant hit.
We also tried the veal tacos which Jaquie enjoyed very much. I thought it was gamey at first, but adding some lime juice complimented the great flavors that were meant to be in the spot light.
(Drum roll)... A few years back, I ate sour cream and onion grasshoppers as a dare while everyone around me screamed "EWWWWW". You may or may not think that eating bugs is disgusting but, believe it or not, this is the true spirit of ancient latin food. Before the conquistadors introduced pigs, chickens and cattle to the native diet, bugs were an important source of protein.
While my first experience wasn’t exactly exceptional, I could eat Toloache’s quesadilla de chapulines (grasshoppers) again and again. The chapulines themselves were nutty and I detected a chili seasoning though Jaquie thought I was crazy and the lady behind the bar said they were only seasoned with lime, salt and olive oil. Who am I to argue with two Mexican ladies about Mexican food?
This was my fourth visit and the food was once again outstanding. I had the Toloache margarita, which had hibiscus and muddled blueberries, which lended a natural sweetness and sealed the deal for the overall dinner.... Or at least that's what I thought until the waiter brought us two glasses of tequila on the house to end the evening on a fantastic note. This moment marks a benchmark of the first free drink beyondburritos recieves.
I strongly suggest that you try Toloache and allow yourself to venture slightly outside your comfort zone or stick to the delectable dishes that are more customary. Prices are in the mid-range with an order of tacos ranging from $10-$15 and entrees from $20-$30.