Since traveling to Mexico in March, Mexican restaurants have become so much less appealing to me. It's not because I consumed too many tortilla chips and guacamole while down there, but rather, the contrary. The food was just so good that I know I will just be disappointed by most New York City restaurants' attempts at the cuisine. In fact, in my own attempts at avoiding mediocre Mexican food, my cravings have definitely heightened over the past several months. It was not until I received a call from La Barra to stop by the new Cevicheria in the lower east side that I decided it was time to at least give them a shot at satisfying those cravings. And, let's just say that my days of pining away for authentic guacamole are over.
The team behind La Barra, while living in the US for the past several years, hails straight from Mexico. This was not only apparent in the upbeat vibe of the staff and the chefs in the open kitchen, but even more so the minute the guacamole and tortilla chips were served. These were identical in both taste and presentation to the Cesiak and Tulum guacamole I had thrived off of at least daily during our 5 glorious days in Mexico earlier this spring. As I spent much of my vacation trying to figure out why guacamole down in Mexico was so much better than the variations served at some of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants in New York City, I did the very same during my meal in the lower east side. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to crack the code. While the question still remains, I can at least share the location of the secret recipes with you.
The rest of the meal continued to remind me of the fondest culinary memories of my Mexican journey. Besides guacamole, ceviche was another staple throughout the vacation. And it just so happens that this is a specialty of La Barra. Their mixed ceviche with scallops, sea bass, and shrimp was excellent. It was hard not to slurp down the entire bowl of this refreshing combination. As the weather slowly starts to warm up, this is the exact dish that I know I will be seeking out - and thank goodness I know exactly where to find it. Who really wants to be sent on a goose chase in hot, humid temperatures? In the ceviche category, I was also really impressed with the surf clams served with habanero, lime, cilantro, onions and olive oil. I had never had these types of clams before and loved the taste, texture, and preparation. Just when I thought I had tried all of my old favorites, two different tostadas were placed in front of me. Maybe I had never had a proper tostada before, but these were out of this world - like no others I have tried. Both the crab served with salpicon and avocado as well as the yellowtail tuna with chipotle mayo, avocado, and pico de gallo were excellent. Again, every ingredient used just felt so fresh and crisp.
I definitely did not come home from Mexico raving about any of the desserts. I will admit that I was there during Lent and so I really didn't indulge in any. But, based on the reviews and culinary expertise of my travel companions, I certainly did not seem to be missing out. However, I think if they had sampled a tres leches cake, I may have quickly found reason to break Lent. La Barra's tres leches cake would have definitely been worth it. This overly moist sponge cake, soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, would make me forget about Lent any day of the week. And while dessert may never really be the highlight of Mexican cuisine, I will definitely no longer be as quick to overlook it. Don't get me wrong - guacamole and ceviche are still at the very top of my list. It's just that now knowing that I can get the real deal of my personal Mexican favorites right here in New York City, my summer has now been made!
250 Broome St.
New York, NY 10002
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):