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Mar 21, 2009 06:39 PM

Red Hook vendor opens Sunset Park restaurant!!!

In 2006, the NY Times wrote an article about Lourdes Pena, vendor of Mexican food at the Red Hook soccer fields (full disclosure: She lives downstairs from me). This weekend, she and her husband opened Casa Vieja, at 60-07 5th Ave in Sunset Park (between 60th and 61st). In addition to the experience she brings, her husband cooked for many years at some upscale Mexican place--Rosa Mexicana, maybe? Can't remember. Anyway, we ate there tonight. Fresh guacamole ($8), cazuela de mariscos ($13)(shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams in a tomato/chipotle broth), enchiladas verde ($6), and pozole ($8).

Holy eff, the food was good. Scallops were seared before going into the broth, shellfish cooked perfectly, elegant radish dice in the pozole, bright tasting salsa verde. The dessert menu isn't available yet, but they promise platanos flameados con ron. And, in three months or so, they'll be serving beer and wine. Service kinks will be worked out, I'm sure. Servers speak English, if you need that. There was a five-piece mariachi band, but I'm not sure if that was just for the opening weekend.

They don't have a take-out menu yet, and I didn't take notes so i can't tell you everything that they have, but it's definitely a bit upscale for Sunset Park. Yes, they have antojitos and fajitas (which smelled amazing). But they also have a number of seafood entrees that hover at $20 (nothing went over), and are of the more "new" mexican type. I wish I'd taken notes. Sorry. If I go back tomorrow AM for french toast, I'll do so.

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  1. Sounds wonderful. It's just a bit (Ok, maybe more than a bit) pricey for that neighborhood.
    There is very little parking so their challenge will be to draw enough walk-in and delivery traffic.

      1. I noticed this new place while riding by on the B63 the other day. Thanks for posting about it. I go to Mexico every chance I get and I'm newly smitten with Tacos Matamoros but I think there is room for this kind of "upscale" Mexican restaurant in Sunset Park too. However.....Will they only be getting a beer and wine license? Because I think they'd have a much better chance of making it work if they serve a reasonablely priced pitcher of margaritas to go with this kind of food. Oh, okay, they can serve margaritas by the individual glass too if they must. ;-) But seriously, margaritas would be a huge plus. If they don't want to have a full bar, is there such a thing as a limited liquor license that would allow them to serve wine, beer and tequila/margaritas?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kitchop

          They're definitely only getting beer/wine license. Liquor licenses are expensive. There's a place on the other side of 5th ave, maybe a block down, where there's a full bar. But seriously, their margaritas are disgusting. I'm delighted to see that they got the write-up on the voice website.

          Am heading over there for dinner now, will bring notebook and report back.

        2. What's the size of the place? Possible to seat a group of 8-10?

          Can't wait to go!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Amy Mintzer

            yes, it is. So, went last night but forgot to bring a pen, so can't report on the entire menu. I had a caesar salad, which was fine (freshly fried tortilla strips instead of croutons were great) and birria. the brria was delicious, very rich and lamb-y.

            1. re: francesb

              I'm a little curious about this place since I ride by it often. Unfortunately, every time I ride by it, it is extremely empty. It looks like they've made an effort to create a nice space. But that bright light makes it look so unappealing. My friend says she'd feel like she was in a fishbowl in that light with those windows. They need to tone down the overhead bright lights and maybe put some sheer curtains on the window to soften it a little.

              I also have to admit that I'm a little put off by a Mexican restaurant that's serving Caesar salad and no margaritas. Caesar salad seems like an odd thing to thave on a Mexican restaurant, especially so close to so many Italian restaurants. If the food is good, I wouldn't mind paying a bit more for it, compared to other Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood. But if you are going to announce that you're "upscale" for the neighborhood, I really want a good margarita with the meal. FYI, Tacos Matamoros, which has great inexpensive authentic Mexican food, is now serving margaritas. So, yes, it can be done.

              1. re: Kitchop

                Caesar salad originated in Mexico City. Don't know how it migrated to Italian menus here, since it sure ain't on menus in Italy.

                And you never know, matamoros might be serving margaritas without a license. And maybe the red hook people want to do everything by the book, since they had such trouble after the city realized they didn't have the legal permits for the ballfields. If i had endured the ballfield headaches they did, I would be sure to do everything by the book in my other establishments.

                And, is it just me, or does anyone else prefer the old-style cantina decor to the new decor all these mexican restaurants are putting these days? I hate the decor at Matamoros (tho I like the food) and the other day I went by Nuevo Mexico in Park Slope and instead of their perfectly fine regular restaurant, they now force everyone into some new room with "fancy" decor next door. And, to top it off, when I asked if they had a menu in spanish (i need to see the words for the kinds of tacos in spanish--i can never tell for sure what my tacos are in english) they said no. sigh.

                1. re: missmasala

                  I completely agree about the decor. But one thing that I have learned from traveling around the world- my NY sensibilities for what connotes class and quality, are not necessarily the same in other countries ( or cities in the US for that matter!!!). That's why g$d invented take out- for the times when the food rocks but the atmosphere is less than my ideal.

                  1. re: missmasala

                    Very interesting about Caesar salad's origin. You inspired me to go to Google for more info and I stand corrected. Apparently, Caesar salad was created by an Italian in Mexico. So, I guess it belongs on both Mexican and Italian menus. I learn something new every day.

                    But why would you even suggest that Matamoros might be serving margaritas without a license? Would they really risk their thriving business by doing that? It seems much more likely that they've waited for a long time to be able to get their margarita license. And I'm happy for both them and for me. I love the atmosphere at Matamoros. Nothing fancy. The atmosphere mostly comes from the other people in the room and the warm buzz of those people. What do you dislike about the decor at Matamoros?

                    1. re: Kitchop

                      The only reason it even occurred to me that there might be something funny about matamoros serving margeritas (and i'm not saying there is at all) is that the margaritas are all they serve. no beer, no wine, no nothing else. (in fact, we brought in our own beer last time we ate there) AFAIK, you can get a license for beer and wine or a license for everything, which includes beer, wine, and liquor. You can't get a license for just one kind of drink. Now maybe this is a choice they have made, but it seems kind of odd that a mexican place would pass up the opportunity to serve beer if they were able to.
                      and as to the decor, i don't like all the wood. it's too brown. but i'm just cranky about the disappearance of all my formica-tabled, linoleum-floored delicious restaurants. first sripraphai, now the mexican joints, next i'll head up to ba xuyen and it will be all fancied up, too.
                      i guess i prefer to eat in joints that dress down, not up.

            2. Having just DELIGHTED!!! in the Pena family's food at the ballfields - I'd think this place would be great, too!

              On a CH rec, I got the barbacoa (goat) taco at Red Hook - luscious, fatty, tasty meat on a fresh tortilla - Heaven! (Another Hound found it to be so rich, that he preferred his on a tostada, with extras (lettuce and so on) to cut the richness! Not me - Give it to me straight!)

              I think it was also their truck where I picked up a bag of freshly made chicharones (sp?) - Again - just heavenly!