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Oct 26, 2012 10:11 AM

Latest disappointment: Empellon Cocina

I was looking forward to going here for awhile, and finally got the chance a few days ago. Overall, I was very disappointed. My friends were hungry, and we ordered a LOT. Overall I felt the food was bland, and overpriced for the portion size. Dishes definitely looked better than they tasted. A quick rundown:

Guacamole - fine, but no better or worse than 30 others I've had, and not cheap. Masa crisps were good and at least they were generous about bringing more out.

Fluke ceviche - a bit too creamy for my taste (but yes, I know that buttermilk is listed) and a pretty tiny portion for $17

Chicharrones - good, light, and crispy, but should have been half the price

Oysters - good size, but they're oysters. I guess $3 a pop is pretty normal for non-happy hour oysters now. Several were pretty gritty - I had to pick at least two or three tiny pebbles (I assume) out of my mouth. Served with salsa, which doesn't really add anything (and in many ways, detracts from the oysters).

Roasted Carrots - good flavors, but $12 for a few tiny shriveled up carrots and a tablespoon of yogurt?

Squid - nice preparation (almost looked like pasta) but just pretty bland. Very unimpressed with the mole sauce, which I normally love. And again, a tiny portion (I'd estimate it to be equal to about 10 pieces of typical calamari) for $17.

Arctic Char - I thought it was fine, my friend almost couldn't eat it. A bit buttery, and came with very little other than the fish. $25 = ripoff. Nothing really to say here.

Scallops - 3 small scallops and some sort of a tortilla "stew". For $27. Scallops had a nice sear but were tasteless. The stew (tiny squares of tortilla in a black bean sauce, I think) were actually very good. I liked the flavor and texture (slightly crisp). Honestly , that may have been the best thing I ate. It was about the only thing with any flavor.

Pumpkin Seed Cake (pretty sure this was it, I was in the restroom when my friends ordered dessert, but it's the only thing on the menu that it could be) - bland and not nearly sweet enough. I couldn't take more than a couple bites.

Flan - This was good. I loved the tiny "reeses peanut butter cups" and the peanut ice cream. The flan had a "tougher" texture to it too which I liked, but others may not.

And my drink - I had a Michelada, which is one of my favorite drinks. This was the worst I've ever had. A little glass of some sort of salsa (maybe the Salsa HabaƱera?) came on the side to mix in. This did NOT make it a michelada. It made it a beer with a creamy salsa mixed in. Awful. Somehow even the salt on the rim was tasteless. On top of that, the straw came, still in its wrapper, on the side? I've never seen that in a restaurant before.

Was anything positively bad? Not really (except the drink and maybe the pumpkin cake). But nothing came even remotely close to standing out. Next time I want "nice" Mexican, I'll go to Fonda a few blocks away, and for 2/3 of the price, get twice as much food that's infinitely better and more flavorful.

Normally I'd ask if we ordered the wrong stuff and give it another shot, particularly because people seem to like this place - but given the number of dishes we got, I definitely won't be back. Am I the only one?

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  1. You know, I have no desire to go to either of the Empellon's. I know that I'll get crap for saying this - and I apologize in advance to anyone who I offend - but I just cannot get past a white dude with a culinary background in pastry and molecular gastronomy making Mexican food. Or Mexican fusion food. Or whatever the hell it's classified as. Just does not appeal to me whatsoever.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LeahBaila

      Yeah, I wish all the Dominicans in this city would lay off trying to make Mexican, French and Italian food too. :stupid:

      1. re: LeahBaila

        to me, that's one of its selling points!

      2. No you're not the only one. Cocina is more hype than substance as far as I'm concerned. Plus the noise is unbearable. I do like Taqueria though.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MrGrumpy

          Same here. Plus, the menu just doesnt look that appetizing when I am looking for Mexican food.

          1. re: MrGrumpy

            i also much prefer Taqueria to Cocina.

          2. There's a lobster with cheese dish served with tortilla at Cocina that's unforgettable for me. I think that dish alone is worth a visit to the restaurant though.

            1. Agree with you on the issue of poor, poor value. Expensive for tiny portions. Though I do find it artfully crafted food.