Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me! - Toloache (and a Fela the Musical)

Whoa! My birthday was over a month ago! If you'll indulge me just a little, then I'll share what Birthday Dinner #2 was like.

This time, dinner was scheduled around my main birthday present from Husband J. More on that later! We needed to be in the Theater District, and I have to say that it was hard to find somewhere to eat. Perhaps it was weirdo pickiness on my part, but I settled on Toloache, a haute Mexican food restaurant.

The food definitely isn't Taco Bell or Chili's, but thoughtfully done and well-executed Mexican cuisine. I had read the review that Sam Sifton, one of the New York Times' restaurant reviewers, wrote, and he had mentioned that sticking with Toloache's small plates would be best. We (okay, fine, I) probably should have taken his advice.....Anyway, here's what we did have.

To begin, you can't go to a Mexican restaurant without getting guacamole.

Frutas Guacamole

Now this guacamole is supposed to medium spicy. Umm...not so much. I loved the untraditional inclusion of pomegranate and mango, but if there was anything remotely close to hot sauce or chili pepper in there, I surely wasn't tasting it. The guacamole was still refreshing, and the chips that accompanied them were warm, crispy with the perfect amount of salt.

Now remember my ceviche at Nuela? Well, Toloache's was more like the ceviches I know and love.

Hamachi (Yellowtail fish) ceviche with Meyer lemon, Huichol salsa (not sure what that is exactly) topped with a piece of crispy avocado

After my ceviche at Nuela, I was glad to have this crunchy, cooling cucumber with perfectly sliced fish brought to life by just enough tanginess and spice. THAT is ceviche! The fried avocado was absolutely fabulous due to its amazing crust while still retaining its creaminess. Now I see why they fry everything at the Texas State Fair. Perhaps frying does make things taste better. :)

My main course was a special for the day.

Scallops with a sweet potato puree

It was a'ight. I mean I really just wanted a more common Mexican dish like chicken mole poblano (a rich sauce made from chilis, spices, onions and CHOCOLATE!) or maybe some enchiladas. For some reason, I felt like I needed to eat something "special." Apparently the words "Keep it simple" were not ringing true for me that day. Anyway, I liked the mashed sweet potato. Between the bread crumbs barely sticking to the scallops, and the fact that they tasted quite "fishy," I was totally not feeling this dish. Too bad 'cause the presentation was pretty to admire, but the flavors just weren't there.

Husband J had the Costilla Res: short ribs in a Oaxacan mole sauce (Oaxaca is a part of Mexico known for its mole), plaintain rice cake and chayote (aka christopene, chow chow or vegetable pear) salad.

I loved the mole sauce, and I kept taking nibbles of the plantain rice cake until Husband J had to swat my hand away. :(

My favorite part of the meal...dessert.

Crepas con cajeta with banana ice cream

Anything with warm bananas gets my vote. Cajeta, which I thought was dulce de leche, is a sweetened caramelized milk pretty common in Mexican cooking. Each layer of crepes (which resembled a mille-feuille) include bits of banana folded in between. Yum!

I would love to go back to Toloache just to try its tacos, which seem to really be the highlight of their menu. If you have a hankering to channel your inner Andrew Zimmern, then try the Chapulines, Oaxacan dried grasshopper tacos. I might try it...if you paid me. :)

By the way, why were we in the Theater District in the first place? Well, Husband J's birthday present to me were tickets to see the musical Fela. I started listening to Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti, about ten years ago, so this was a treat for me. When you hear his music, it's hard to want to keep still. I loved it but after seeing this musical, I know why it didn't win any of the 11 Tonys it was nominated for. I mean why would you want to see a musical about a slightly unhinged, anti-colonialist, anti-corruption, Black nationalist, multiple wife-having, pot-smoking, creator of his own musical genre, when you go see Mary Poppins? Just sayin' .... :) This is in fact one of the most original musicals you'll ever see. Most everyone I know who lives here in New York (including me) rarely ever goes to see Broadway shows, but I think I will try to see more if I can.

Here's a tidbit of what I saw.

Thank you to Husband J for a great birthday!


BigAppleNosh said...

Nothing's better than a birthday dinner - unless it's TWO birthday dinners! ;)

M and C said...

Happy Belated Birthday!!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious! Yum :)

Morgan said...

Lucky you, 2 birthday dinners! And that guac looks delish, I can't go to a Mexican restaurant without ordering guac either!

Kimberly Michelle said...

How yummy does that food look! I like my Mexican to be Oaxacan -- mainly because that's what I grew up on (the native/migrant Mexican population is from Oaxaca) and I swear I could live on mole alone!


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