|China de Puebla|
Cuisine: Mexican , Asian
Menu: View the Menu
Three years ago master sommelier Ian Nal and chef Jason Scott Titner first worked together at Café Mozart, attempting to turn the Upper West Side dessert favorite into a first-class restaurant – a worthy effort that ended up not being appreciated by the eatery’s management. But the pair not only hit it off, they began to discuss opening their own place – a dream now finally realized by at China de Puebla, an extremely welcome addition to the Morningside Heights area that will appeal equally to residents, Columbia students, and adventurous diners willing to travel out of their geographic comfort zone.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
While fusion has become a dirty word in some food circles, Nal, the restaurant’s owner, and Titner, the executive chef, have smartly rehabilitated the concept with an eclectic menu that spans continents in unusual and mostly delicious ways. For example, delicate zucchini blossoms benefit from not just the tempura-like batter but an intoxicating filling of queso fresco and sweet corn, while crispy rounds of cornmeal-crusted calamari gain added kick from fried cherry peppers and a sweet chili sauce.
Those aren’t the only starters worth sharing; a magnificently smooth shiitake mushroom mousse, served with old-fashioned shrimp chips for dipping, and a fairly traditional guacamole are both perfect appetite-whetters. But the one appetizer you’ll want all to yourself – no matter how much you love your dining companion – is a supremely refreshing summer soup that Titner has christened green jade gazpacho, which brilliantly melds zucchini, cucumber, jicama, honeydew, coconut, and mint.
The cross-cultural pollination continues through the entrees, such as a perfectly cooked filet of codfish lightly accented by a tortilla crust, accompanied by snow peas and a napa cabbage slaw, or a surprisingly tender roasted chicken napped in a light curry sauce, accompanied by a generous portion of black sticky rice and addictive fried plantains. When we return, we hope to sample the tamarind-glazed duck breast in a cashew mole and a grilled skirt steak studded with szechuan peppercorns, two of Nal’s favorite choices from the menu.
We’ll also make sure to leave room for dessert, since Titner proves himself to be equally adept at grand finales. Even a devoted non-flan fancier like myself was momentarily converted by a heavenly coconut-and-star-anise variation, made extra-special by a chunk of homemade sesame brittle, while I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to finish every last spoonful of a silky Mexican chocolate mousse with just a dab of hibiscus syrup.
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights
Chef: Jason Scott Titner
Hours: Dinner 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Sunday Brunch 11:30am to 3:30pm
Entree Price: $15-20
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