A Mexican fine dining experience in Manhattan is difficult to come by. Beyond La Esquina, I’ve found few other spots that offer fresh lobster ceviche in a fine-stemmed martini glass. Yet, a new restaurant has arrived at the Dream Hotel for the denizens of tiny-taco lovers to embrace with a unique, tequila-infused cocktail in hand. Bodega Negra is the latest addition to the Tao/Lavo Group and an outpost of an already successful Bodega Negra in London.
The space is absolutely beautiful. The dark interior, cavernous and mysterious, is warmly lit in a beautiful glow of soft, yellow candles. The light reflecting in slivers of mirror. The first feature I noticed is in the main dining room; a stunning copper globe made from 10,000 pennies shining like a worn-in disco ball. Sombreros line the ceiling of a private dining room, while rustic guitars help transport you in luxury south of the border.
Now to the food, the light and truth of the restaurant. From start to finish, you will find everything at Bodega Negra delightful. Keeping your average guacamole starter unique, the restaurant offers it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and white fluffs of queso fresco. It's served up in a clear skull making this dish as unexpected as it is memorable. Continue the bliss with the open-faced Quesadilla Rustica which is just as vibrant as the guac. I think it looks much more like a pizza, but call it what you will, delicious food by any other name is still in fact delicious. The crispy tortilla crust is topped with roasted tomatoes that pop delightfully in the mouth for a bit of sweet after the bite of green jalapeno, all drizzled in creamy queso fresco.
Though there are many pleasing entrée options, bite-size tacos are excellent here and perfect for sharing. From soft shell crab, lightly fried and drizzled in chipotle aoli, and peking duck, to fresh fish tacos (typically a red snapper or mahi mahi) served with crisp lettuce and creamy avocado, all tacos are tucked into house-made corn tortillas. Their Tostaditas are not only fun to pronounce, but these beautiful tortilla packets carry the same bite-size benefits as the tacos, this time stuffed with plump lobster.
Roasted Chili Rellenos and fresh fish platters constitute the entrée portion of the menu, as well as crispy pork belly topped with plaintain-size pineapple, offer a nod to the slight Asian twist Bodega Negra infuses in its classic Mexican dishes.
To drink, tequila is a strong option with more than 90 varieties to choose from on the premises. From the classic margarita to fun options like the Chamomile Daisy with chamomile-apple agave and lemon, all of the signature cocktails offer the freshest ingredients and sometimes even a little spice.
Desserts here could easily carry the restaurant. Choose from a fresh assortment of ice cream and sorbet flavors. The coconut cannot be missed-a clean bite with just the right amount of coconut that dissolves perfectly on the tongue along-with the ice cream. Mexican inspired desserts include piping hot empanadas and cocomel, creamy coconut caramel custard accompanied by vanilla ice cream and whipped cream that is the stuff of dreams.