Does eating Mexican food count?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

So I checked out BBC's Spanish Lessons a couple nights ago, just before bed, and looked over the pronunciation guide.  I did really well at guessing the pronunciations, considering I spent 6 years learning French and a month or two fooling around with Italian.  Instead of heading home and studying the very basics of Spanish last night, I headed out for alimentos y bebidas.  (I needed the help of Google Translate for that, I am that much of a beginner.)

Anyway, last night I went out to dinner at El Centro (54th Street and 9th Avenue) in Hell's Kitchen.  I'd previously seen it from the outside, and it caught my eye with its kooky decor and flashy sign, but ladies and gents, leave your distaste for color and camp at the door -- the food here is fantastic.

First off, I ordered a mojito.  The very first mojito I ever had was at The Pour House in Boston, which claims to have the best mojito in Boston.  They are not wrong.  In fact, they may very well have the best mojito in the United States or the world, as far as I can tell.  I've tried to find one as good or better and I have yet to succeed.  (Chevy's -- the chain Tex-Mex restaurant -- made an awesome watermelon mojito during the summer, though.)

El Centro's mojito was probably the second best standard mojito I've had.  And I've had a lot of mojitos. They're usually either too strong, too watered down, not minty enough AND not sweet enough.  This one was awesome.  Not as sweet at the one at The Pour House, but it was fizzy and tasty nonetheless.

I ordered the grilled mahi-mahi tacos (I cannot resist fish tacos, I really can't), which came with a chipotle sauce drizzled over it, pickled cabbage, a wedge of lime and a shot glass of some sort of green salsa (salsa verde?  See, I'm one step closer already).

Oh my GOD it was amazing.

Even better than the fish tacos I had in San Diego.  Better than the massive grilled mahi-mahi fish tacos at Wahoo's in Laguna Beach.  Simply the best I've had.

My dining companions ordered the pomegranate-glazed skirt steak tacos (winning review) and the achiote pepper chicken tacos with mole negro (not as winning, but still good).

I didn't realize until I received my to-go bag that El Centro is owned by the people behind Vynl just down the street, but they are.  El Centro is a million times better, and the decor more fun.


So now El Centro is my new favorite cheap NYC restaurant.  I haven't really had one since Cafe Gitane, which I stopped going to because it became so, so hipster and well-known.  But I will definitely be going back to El Centro.  Again and again and again.

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