Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Kosher For Passover" Mexican Food at Toalache, And It's Good!

In this post, I noted that while searching for community Passover Seders in NYC, I stumbled upon a couple  of restaurants (literally) that were offering Passover menus. One of those restaurants was the Mexican bistro, Toalache located on W. 50th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenues.

Last night, I convinced my friend to trek over to Midtown West to try some Kosher-for-Passover-style "Tacos de Brisket." (I say kosher style, as the restaurant does serve both dairy and meat, and I have a feeling that the food has not been blessed by a rabbi, but if you are lenient with your Passover restrictions, as I am, you can rest assured that there is no bread on Toalache's Passover menu). I imagined that, like much of the typical Passover food at the grocery, the "tacos," made out of matzo (the cracker-type food that Jews eat at Passover instead of bread, to remind us of the supposed Exodus from Egypt when the Israelites did not have enough time to bake their dough), would be dry and tasteless. Boy was I wrong!

Matzo Tacos de Brisket
The thin, warm matzo tortilla was so tasty that I never would have known it was made of matzo if I hadn't read it on the menu. And the brisket inside? Mm, mmm, mmmm! It was delicious and full of flavor, better than some of the best brisket I have had at the old Jewish delis. My friend ordered the regular (read: not matzo-made) brisket tacos, and hers were also devoured quite quickly. We were told that the chef and owner, Julian Medina, wished to create a menu in which he could interpret Passover through Mexican cuisine, and what a fine job he did!

We had also started out with a ceviche "atun" (tuna), that was fresh and just a little spicy, but with a unique pairing of watermelon chunks to tone down the pico. 

Dulce de Leche Matzo Pudding with Coffee Ice Cream
For dessert, we ordered a Dulce de Leche Matzo Pudding, as well as flan. The light, creamy flan, topped with mango and strawberry pieces was a perfect compliment to our heavier meals. And just like the matzo tacos, the matzo pudding was so delicious that I could hardly tell that I was restricting my normal diet to eat it. Doused in coffee ice cream, the matzo pudding (kugel?) was positively sinful! 

Throughout the meal, we also sipped on strong, fruity margaritas. I was ecstatic for the Agave Nectar Margarita, which was made with "Agave 99 Blanco Kosher Tequila," and had just the right proportion of tartness to sweetness. When we raved about the food to our waitress, she sent over the manager for the evening, Victor, who was warm and charming and even offered us more margaritas, on the house! We had to decline, due to the strength of the margaritas that we had already consumed, but we were extremely appreciative of the restaurant's hospitality. 

I also enjoyed the upstairs dining area, which was fairly minimalist, yet evoked, to some extent, a feeling of Old-World-style fine Mexican dining. Although Passover ended today and Toalache is no longer serving the Passover-inspired menu, there are still a plethora of options available on their menu to satisfy your Mexican-food cravings for brunch, lunch or dinner, and they even have a vegetarian menu! Mr. Medina clearly has a very progressive approach to his food. See all menus here

The prices are not cheap, but for the area (Midtown West/Theater District/Clinton), it was not bad at all. I look forward to returning soon. Maybe I will even be really adventurous and try the Chapulines Tacos (filled with Oaxacan-styled dried grasshoppers, onion and jalapeno). 

If you live or work in the financial district, be sure to also visit Toalache's downtown Taqueria, on Maiden Lane. See more info on other partner restaurants here

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