As usual, we were again running some errands in this Midtown East area close to Central Park. We are running a bit dry on Italian options, so fortunately my partner finally said “yes” to a Mexican restaurant that I have wanted to go to for a long time. I vaguely recall Empellón having a Michelin Star a while back, but I cannot find any information on it at this time. I even asked ChatGPT, and they thought it had received a star in the Michelin 2019 NYC guide. Regardless, I have wanted to come here to try their infamous dessert.
Ambiance & Service
We were able to walk in without reservations at 6:30 PM on a Saturday night, surprisingly. I guess it was because it was about 15 degrees F outside, so no one really wanted to walk outside other than us.
They seated us in an area next to other diners where the light was fairly dim.
The service itself was pretty good though it could be better. Our waitress’ timing was a bit off as the night went on. The wait staff kept our waters filled without asking, and the main host was attentive to my eyes and body movement which probably caused him a bit of anxiety in terms of pace.
The Mother of Dragons ($31) came with Casa Dragones Blanco tequila, agave nectar, lime juice, and smoked salt. This cocktail was delicious for a splurge drink, but it was definitely not worth the price. It was very smooth and had an excellent character of smokey and limey, but it did come at a premium.
The Crab Nachos ($34) came with sea urchin “queso”. The crab nachos was surprisingly really good, albeit it was pretty pricey. They did give a generous portion of crab meat, although there were one or two pieces that still had some of its cartilage in it. Well, at least you knew it was fresh. The sea urchin was spread sporadically around, and it added minimally to the flavors. The other dressing and sauces were much more tasty, and honestly, it could’ve been done without the sea urchin. Regardless, the nachos were quite delectable, though not as good as the crab nachos we had at Bluezoo in Orlando.
The Ground Dry Aged Beef Picadillo ($22) came with crunchy u-shaped shell and vermont cheddar blend. This literally tasted like normal beef tacos though the shell had a nice crisp to it. My partner had mentioned it reminded them of a upscale taco from Taco Bell. Value wise, it is kind of expensive, but the ingredients are pretty clean and fresh. The lemon wedge is a nice compliment to it.
The Carnitas ($65) came with green tomato pico de gallo and green chile hot sauce to share. The carnitas meat was very delicious. It had a mix of rib meat, pulled pork, and some of the bacon fat and skin. On the side, they served some puffy crisps that I am not sure are onions or pig fat. When your pour the green chile hot sauce on it, it crackles a bit. They also give you fresh tortillas to wrap your food in. The green chile hot sauce was sour and sharp, and it was a great counter balance to the richness and fattiness of the pork. It was all crazy good when you combine it together into a taco. We did end up bringing a lot of this home because we wanted to save room for the dessert.
The Avocado ($19) came with lime, olive oil, and eucalyptus yogurt. This has been the iconic dessert at this restaurant for many years, and it has garnered a number of positive reviews on its creativity and taste. The white ice surrounding the “avocado” was similar to a crispy lime sorbet. The avocado itself was definitely a real treat of trickery. Every bite made me expect something super creamy, but instead it had the light flavors of eucalyptus and olive oil. The texture was similar to the avocado, but it reminded me a bit of more of a panna cotta type texture. The dessert as a whole was quite good and different, but outside of the complete mind trickery, it probably was not my preferred flavor profile. Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable experience if you haven’t tried it yet.
Empellón was a very delicious, albeit expensive, Mexican restaurant. Compared to other restaurants in the city, it does offer you an upscale taste of what high end Mexican can taste like. In the end, our favorite so far remains Tán. However if you want to try some pretty good foods at a slightly expensive price, check out Empellón and make sure to make room for dessert.
It seemed everyone had started with the seven salsa appetizer, and it was highly recommended, so we decided to go for that one too.
This Elitist fell into the herd trap. I think the crab nachos would have been better since it’s atypical. When it comes to chip and salsa, I’m sure it’s good, but no way is it better than the crab nachos. I have not had a salsa ever in my life that I would order in lieu of fresh crab meat.
The tacos were okay - nothing to write home about, but better than most of the dishes we had. I would say the only things I enjoyed and would consider ordering again were the shishito peppers and the avocado.
This Elitist mainly ordered tacos at a bougie restaurant. How good can tacos be? At these types of restaurants, I feel strongly that if Elitists knew anything, they’d go for the mains and entrees where there is more emphasis on how the restaurant identifies with the food.
- Feb 4, 2023 - Initial revision.