By Jennifer Herrera | Photos by World-renowned Food Photographer Thomas Schauer
A tasting at New York’s top-rated Mexican restaurant
Walking through the glass doors of Crema Restaurante, you cannot help but gaze at the decor and ambiance of the adobe walls, with different splashes of tangerine, along with the beautiful cactus garden.
I decided to try the Burrito de Atún 1 first, which turned out to be a pleasant opener. It’s a pan-seared big eye tuna wrapped in a crispy golden, yet soft tortilla, with green Chile aioli, fresh jalapeño and serrano chilies. The dish is served with creamy avocado, a crunchy jicama relish and a mouth-watering sesame pasilla sauce.
These bold flavors make it a perfect partner to the subtle atún. Another fascinating dish is the Alambres de Filet Mignon, 5 which I enjoyed the most. The Negra Modelo beer marinade adds to this beautifully tenderized cut of meat. The apple-smoked bacon is seared on the plancha along with the Filet Mignon so the steak absorbs all the savory flavors. Then, red onion, Portobello mushrooms, poblano and bell peppers on bamboo skewers are added as well.
The filet mignon is served with beer-battered Vidalia onions, a lemon-basil chimichurri and a jalapeño-infused vinegar. The crunch factor of the fresh poblano peppers, along with the wonderful tangy acidity from the Chimichurri vinegar, makes each bite of tender meat and grilled vegetables more exciting than the next.
Next, the Ceviche de Pulpo. 3 This sweet, smoky and chilled course was quite refreshing. The main ingredient is African octopus, which is cooked perfectly and then slowly marinated in an agavesweetened
citrus juice blend. Creamy chunks of avocado, crunchy onions and aromatic cilantro are then delicately added.
The colorful concoction is then spiked with a few of my favorite Mexican sauces -both Valentina and Buffalo (a secret I had to swindle and get out of the chef). The ceviche is served in a Crema spice-rimed tall glass, and served with a crispy flour tostada and a creamy avocado mousse. If you find yourself at Crema for brunch, try the Salmon a la Crema, 2 which is a Mexican-style Eggs Benedict finished with a dollop of jalapeño-poblano hollandaise sauce.
A trip to Crema isn’t complete without trying a few signature cocktails by Crema Mixologist Eduardo Velazquez. One of the most popular drinks is appropriately named Labios Calientes, 6 or hot lips, which combines tequila reposada, freshly-squeezed lime juice with muddled mint, and both habanero and jalapeño peppers. It’s then sweetened with organic agave nectar and garnished with a red-hot chile. Labios smacking good!
Another cocktail to try is the Mora Margarita. 7 The drink starts off with fresh blueberries, which are muddled and then shaken with 100% agave tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice. Berry, berry good!
My experience at Crema will most certainly not be my last. The warm and attentive service, combined with the cozy and sexy ambiance, delectable and creative food, and cocktails makes this restaurant a recipe for success in my book.
CROCK POT COCONUT/ TOMATILLO PORK CHOPS
Serves 4 | prep time 15 min. | Cook time 7 to 8 hrs
4 pork chops 11/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves
1/2 Spanish onion
1 teaspoon of cumin
3 cans of coconut milk
I1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 sheet of banana leaves
4 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Season pork chops with salt and pepper. In a blender mix all of the ingredients except for the bay leaves and banana leaves. Place the pork chops with the coconut - tomatillo mix cover it with the banana leaves and cook over night in low heat until tender. Degrease the juice and blended until smooth , you can use that
as a sauce.
SOUTHWESTERN BLOODY MARY
3 cups spicy hot v-8 juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from canned chipotle
chilies in adobo)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup chilled vodka
6 celery ribs , with leafy tops
6 fresh red chilies, slit
1. Mix first 7 ingredients in pitcher. Chill mix ture until cold, at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Mix in vodka.
3. Fill glasses with ice. Pour Bloody Mary mixture over. Garnish with celery and chilies.
MEET SOME OF THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE MAGIC AT CREMA RESTAURANT • www.cremarestaurante.com
This celebrity chef has appeared on the hit Food
Network show Iron Chef. Ballesteros is now in the
process of creating her first cookbook and is a
feature chef at this year’s Del Norte A Sur food and
wine festival in Puerto Rico.
Rafael Anaya is an experienced New York City
restaurant consultant whose mission with Crema is
to build customers one at a time by treating them
like family. He’s managed more than 5 restaurants
throughout the city.