Monday, April 7, 2008

A Food Network Chef's Cetrico Focus

I love venturing out to different neighborhoods in NYC. Each one has such a different feel...and more importantly for Miss Menu, even more new restaurants to try! I headed down to Tribeca on Saturday to try Centrico, an upscale Mexican restaurant. When checking out the restaurant's website and menu before heading downtown, the chef's name looked really familiar to me. I put it together that Aaron Sanchez was recently a contestant on Food Network's Next Iron Chef. Then I remembered that he was eliminated pretty early on in the competition. Hmm...I was seriously hoping he left the issues he had in the Next Iron Chef kitchen out of Centrico's kitchen!

Centrico has a great corner location...perched up high with tall ceilings and large windows that give it a very open and airy ambiance. When the weather permits, tables fill the wrap-around outdoor seating area. The restaurant has a simple, yet slightly-outdated, decor that manages to feel typically Mexican without the requisite sombreros and cacti. To start the meal off right, we ordered margaritas, which came in many different flavors, both frozen and on the rocks. I got the raspberry frozen margarita, which had freshly crushed raspberries on the bottom of the glass, topped with a very strong frozen margarita mix.

On the menu, it seemed like there were more entradas (starters) than there were platos principales (main dishes). By now, I'm sure you can guess what I suggested to my friend...let's order a bunch of appetizers to split! We weren't sure how many to order, so we started with three and let the waiter know we'd probably be ordering more later. First up for the first batch was the Queso Fundido. Think small baked casserole of hot, melty cheese with chorizo and potatoes mixed in. It was served with tiny, handmade corn tortillas that tasted so different and SO much better than the standard, packaged tortilla. My friend ate the chorizo, which left me with plenty of cheesy, potato goodness. In my opinion, melted cheese almost always tastes good, but the flavor of this dish was unbelievable.

Next up was the Plantanos Rellenos...sweet plantains filled with smoky beans,
drizzled with crema fresca. Despite not seeing or tasting much crema fresca, the flavor of the plantains with the black beans was really good. Problem was, it seemed like they had gotten cold after being prepared, and weren't as good as they probably could have been. People who know me well always think it's funny that I like plantains when bananas are one of my least favorite foods (read: I can't stand being around someone who is eating one!).

Rounding out this first batch was the Tostadas de Jaiba. Having no background in the Spanish language, I got a kick out of how that word is pronounced...sounds like High-ee-buh. Who knew?! I am usually not one to eat crab, but the waiter highly recommended this dish, so I had to give it a taste. It was made up of round tortilla chips that were topped with lump crabmeat, avocado, cilantro, and the most delicious chipotle-lime aioli. I have recently decided that I love almost every aoili I have ever had...such great, creative flavors combinations.

I was feeling pretty good at this point, but my friend wasn't satisfied yet. So, we went back for more, and decided on one more entrada each. I chose the Quesadilla de Verduras and my friend got the Camarones Crujientes. The quesadilla was described as being filled with seasonal vegetables, queso oaxaca, and topped with a roasted tomatillo salsa. Sounds pretty simple, but unfortunately it was too simple. The tortilla was one of the packaged kinds, which was disappointing after tasting the handmade ones earlier. And the seasonal vegetables consisted only of mushrooms. Now, I'm no farmer, but I'm pretty sure more than just mushrooms are in season right now...somewhere in the world. Basically, the only redeeming quality was the queso oaxaca. As I said before, melted cheese always makes it better! The tomatillo salsa was really flavorful and a nice addition too. I took my friend's word for it that the shrimp were tasty. I just couldn't get over them staring at me from the plate...can't stand when they're served head-on, even when I'm not eating them!

All in all, it was a pretty good meal. Some things were definitely amiss, and I can't help but think maybe they were similar to Sanchez's mistakes on the show. But, Centrico featured some interesting twists on class Mexican dishes. While this restaurant may not be "centrico" (centrally located) in Manhattan, it's definitely worth a trip downtown. If anything, just go to sit outside and enjoy a margarita and some queso fundido on a beautiful day.

Centrico
211 West Broadway
@ Franklin Street
website
Menu Pages listing

No comments: