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Apr 29, 2012 05:46 PM

Empellon Taqueria Review

We walked in around 6:45pm on a Sunday and were seated right away. Our server was helpful in helping us order and overall was prompt.

Ordered two cocktails. Not as good as Cocina's and far too much ice, so they immediately began tasting watered down. The Por Que No (Pueblo Viejo Blanco, Pineapple Puree, Cilantro, Serrano) was solid, tasting of fruit and cilantro, but I think the Poquito Picante at Pegu Club right now is much better. It might be a better drink if served up, and not on the rocks, as there too many rocks! The Sierra Madre (Pueblo Viejo Añejo, Root Liqueur, Smoked Maple Syrup, Black Walnut Bitter) was tasty and a little sweet due to the root/maple but suffered from the same problem, too much ice.

Scallop Ceviche with Yuzu, Pistachio, and Avocado was good but a bit busy. There was thin slices of hot pepper competing with the scallops competing with a milky flan underneath everything. The scallops themselves were sweet and fresh but got a bit lost in the cilantro, avocado, flan, hot pepper, yuzu, and what appeared to be some sort of nut purée. A very, very busy plate. And a bit with too much hot pepper really blew my palate out of whack.

The sopes with Shortribs with Salsa Roja (roasted tomato, chipotle, guajillo) were solid and well executed. Much simpler than our previous dish. I liked the contrast of the tender short rib against the crispy corn and pungent onion, but couldn't really taste the salsa roja. Not sure I would get this again though.

I did love the queso fundido with Shishito peppers. They sautéed the peppes, took off the stems, and piled them on top of melted cheese. A great and unexpected combination, warm, fresh tortillas, with gooey cheese, and spicy shisitos. I may crave this in the future.

We also got two appetizer (two taco) plates. The Lamb Barbacoa with Salsa Borracha (orange juice, mezcal, pasilla Oaxaquena) were well executed and flavorful but not particularly exciting. I did like the use of pickled cucumber and olives for textural contrast and acid.

However, I adored the Beer Braised Tongue with Potatoes and Arbol Chile Salsa (pumpkin seeds, sesame, arbol). The tongue tacos were incredibly tender. So flavorful, with a slow heat that crept up on you. My husband had been worried about tongue, thinking it would be chewy, this was just the opposite. Wonderful and creative.

We were so stuffed at this point, we had no room for dessert.

Overall, a quite nice meal. Sat in the back room, noise was at a pleasant hum, room was 80% full. No shouting needed. We spent $71 for two, before tax, tip, and drinks, which seems very reasonable given the ambitiousness of the cooking, and high quality ingredients. I prefer Cocina but they are two different restaurants, trying to accomplish different things.

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  1. Hi kathryn,

    I am researching on Mexican food to try during my trip, and because I quite enjoyed Chef Alex Stupak's desserts I want to try one of his Empellon. It seems that most reviews for Empellon Cocina wasn't that great, so I am steering toward taqueria now. Some of the dishes you mentioned here are not longer available (i love tongue taco but now it's sweetbreads, which I love as well).

    Have you tried Cocina for a comparison? For tacos, do you have any other recommendations? Either restaurants or street carts? Tongue or offal tacos are even better!

    Thanks in advance.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      if you are going to be on the UES on your trip I recommend Cascabel for their tongue tacos. Very tender and flavorful.

      1. re: kobetobiko

        Here's my Cocina report:

        My favorite taco place isn't currently serving (Lone Star Taco at the New Amsterdam Market), unfortunately.

      2. Thanks for the review. Ive been to Cocina, but I really want to try Empellon Taqueria. Is it located in EV.? A suggestion for Kobetobiko, is to try the taco/tortilla factory on Starr St. near Onderdonk in Brooklyn. They have a great tako stand, and even a live rooster that crows when it's lunch hour for the workers. They make Tortillas and it's really a good deal.

        4 Replies
        1. re: foodwhisperer

          230 West 4th Street at West 10th. There's this thing called Google, y'know...

          1. re: kathryn

            Google never heard of it. I heard of Googie's haha

          2. re: foodwhisperer

            the taco place, are you talkin about los hermanos? good tacos and tortillas, but be prepared for hipster saturation. Sunset Park area has great tacos too, Ricos, el bronco and matamoros. In Manhattan there in Hells Kitchen area, Tehuitzingo Deli i am a fan of, have all the offal cuts too and there is that cart that is 24 hrs in EV, name escapes me now, not bad when you really want a taco.

            as for empellon Taqueria(WV) and Cocina(EV) they are both great restaurants, I would say Taqueria is a bit more lively in terms of atmosphere and Cocina is more intimate.

            Lauren Resler is in charge of desserts for Empellon but they are good and match his style.

            1. re: jester99

              Yes Los Hermanos. It's not in Bushwick as the article says. Its in Ridgewood. When I went there, a couple of times a week, a few years ago, there were no hipsters in sight. The neighborhood was also dangerous at night. I guess things change. But the look of the place from the picture in the link hasn't changed a bit