Matilda report - Tusc-Mex in the East Village
Matilda, for those who don't know, is the new Tusc-Mex place opened by a couple of folks from I coppi. We tried it last night and, while the place still has a few kinks to work out, we'll certainly go back. The menu is refreshingly unique yet simple.
First off, a warning: Service is very slow and not particularly professional. It seemed our waitress had never waited tables before and it took quite some time to get everything from menus to wine to food to the check. That said, she was very sweet and we'll just hope she gets a knack for it eventually. Looking around at the other tables, it appears that service is a problem throughout the restaurant.
But now on to the good stuff....
Small cocktail list but everyone around us seemed quite pleased with the generous mojito-like drinks. My husband and I went for wine and, while the list is much smaller than that of I coppi and somewhat on the young side, there were a few interesting bottles to choose from.
Bread comes with olive oil with hot pepper. Delicious with a nice kick.
We started off as follows:
Tuscan take on guacamole, which, as far as I can tell, just means adding sweet pepper and basil to avocado. Nothing terrible but quite bland. I'd skip this.
Fennel, mango and jicama salad with hot pepper This dish does not look appetizing - lots of white strips on a white plate - but the flavor combination worked beautifully.
Mexican bruscetta. This was our favorite dish, a spicy but simple take on the Italian, with lots of tomatillo and jalepeno.
For an entree, I had fusilli with squash blossoms and chayotes (a sort of Mexican sweet squash). A great dish, although a bit on the sweet side for my likes. The husband had the lamb shank with tequila and orange with a side of broccoli rabe, The dish was quite homey and, like just about everything else, simple but delicious.
No dessert, for we were stuffed, but perhaps next time. I think the entrees are about $20 and the starters are closer to $10.
I tried Matilda tonight (we were going to moon house, on bayard, but had a subway problem so we ended up at Matilda, which is 3 blocks from home), and i have to say i think it was very poor conceptually. i think fusions should be about one cuisine contributing one way or another to another cuisine and i could not see any contribution to either mexican or tuscan cuisine here. The problem is it is not a great mexican or tuscan restaurant either. The guacamole alla toscana was mashed avocado with italian seasoning (red pepper and basil instead of cilantro and onion), which for me did not enhance the avocado flavors, on the contrary the seasoning hid its flavors. In the pozole a fagioli I could not see any reference either to pozole or to pasta fagioli; don't get me wrong, the soup wasn't bad, but it tasted like a regular bean soup. The Insalata Matilda wasn't memorable at all, the greens weren't fresh (including the avocado); the best ingredient of the salad was the cotija cheese. Same story about the tacos. The best dish was the chayotes gratinati, because rarely in the city restaurants use chayote (which i really like) and the dish had chorizo and epazote- which are flavorful, but it was not great either, just fine. The plus for me is that they have a very moderately priced wine list that is decent (a Nipozzano Riserva 2004 -Frescobaldi- for 38 is not a bad deal). It wasn't an awful place, but i'll be definitely dreaming of moon house's dou miao tonight...
We went back again recently. I'm pleased to say that the service was much better but, then again, it was a Wednesday night. The chorizo with beans and sage was a big hit, as well as the celery soup. The soup might sound boring but - trust me - it was delicious. Veggie tacos were boring. Oh, and it's cash only.