October 1, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

An Eclectic Taste of Mexico on West 50th 

 A trio of guacamoles get smashed at the Toloache's bar. Photo: Steven Richter
A trio of guacamoles get smashed at the Toloache's bar. Photo: Steven Richter

         Toloache is an earnest Mexican bistro yearning for the bigtime. Hand-painted tile, unmatching tin lanterns, white tablecloths, kitchen runners reciting the details of the dish they deliver, all signal upscale intentions.   Chef partner Julian Medina’s menu skips around Mexico and beyond with a trio of guacamoles mashed to order at the bar, fabulous organic huevo ranchero, suckling pig from the brick oven, and fine Vera Cruz-style paella.  Then a quirky detour for foie gras tacos.

In a world of abused paellas, Toloache's scores. Photo: Steven Richter

         I have initial doubts about guacamole with fruit, still I’m curious to taste avocado with mango, apple, peach, habaņero and Thai-basil. And our fussy eaters like it. Exotic margaritas, including chocolate and frozen tamarind are mighty potent.

         Ask the waiter what tacos he suggests and with no hesitation, he responds, “The grasshopper.” Indeed? “Oaxacan dried grasshoppers are great bar food,” he insists. I’ll leave that treat to Tony Bourdain, while we trip out on marvelous braised brisket with tomatillo salsa and horseradish cream stuffed into handmade corn tortillas. After so many starters, a small huitlacoche quesadilla makes a perfect entree for me.  

         And a few days later at lunch, I love the citric tang of Baja-style hamachi tacos with guacamole, spicy jicama slaw and a smart dash of lime. Ceviche is not the house’s strong suite. I like mine packing more heat and citrus.  But crispy pork on sweet corn tamal with mole verde is fine and roasted garlic shrimp are amazingly juicy and tender over black beans and chayote squash “spaghetti salad.”

         When a staff is as accommodating as Toloache’s you suspect they take their cues from a determinedly friendly management. And if you’re seated next to a wildly enthusiastic pregnant woman wanting to know how you liked your quesa fundido, smile. That’s the chef’s wife, expecting the heir come November.

251 W. 50th Street near Broadway 212 581 1818




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