wAs some of you know, I have recently graduated college from Franklin & Marshall college in Lancaster, PA. On its own, it is an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of. On Monday, I start my culinary classes at I.C.E. in Manhattan and am excited to begin this next chapter in my life. In the interim, other than drinking and doing as little as possible in an effort to decompress from 4 years of blissful insanity, I have moved into my apartment in the heart of Greenwich Village. In the beginning of the apartment hunt, I was shooting for something further downtown or uptown, but not in the Village because it was always the “go-to” destination rather than the “live there” destination.
Since moving to the village, I have begun eating my words. This neighborhood is fucking amazing! The number of restaurants and things to do is amazing and if you are a regular reader, you will know the best places to eat because I’m going to be telling you about them.
On the night I moved in, my parents treated me to a nice dinner to celebrate at a place called Toloache. They said they once went here and thought I would love it. I did some research and found out that the kitchen is run by Chef Julian Medina, a student of Chef Richard Sandoval, who runs Maya on 1st between 64th & 65th. Maya is an amazing restaurant that I have only once had the opportunity to go to many years ago when staying in the city. When I heard that Chef Medina was running this kitchen I was ecstatic to go. Even more fortunately for me, I live about a 3-minute walk around the corner.
Located on Thompson St. in Greenwich Village, this is only 1 of 3 locations. The other two, located E 50th st, and W 82nd st, mean that nobody living in Manhattan is too far from such an amazing restaurant. The restaurant itself is rather small, but with the amazing location, and open to the nightlife layout with broad swinging doors that open to the sidewalk. Even so, the tables by these open doors still feel as though you are sheltered inside the comfort of the dark wood and warm colors inside. You can see just into the kitchen where a busy staff was buzzing around creating nothing less than something amazing. The bar is extensive, especially for a small little place. Their tequila collection is quite large as well which is what I hear is what they are known for. What surprised me even more is that the wait staff was also very educated on the tequila so when I asked about a specific bottle that caught my eye (I collect whiskey labels so things like this happen a lot) and she started telling me the region it came from, what its made with and the aging process and so on which to be honest I was quite impressed with. This is the wait staff, not just the bar staff.
When we first sat down, we were greeted by the friendly staff, all of whom quietly spoke in Spanish to each other when they were not conversing with customers. This is something that I like because when you read about all these great restaurants and chefs who are trying to make a kitchen inspired by the authentic cuisine they grew up with and so on and the people serving you cannot sympathize with that then there is a break from good food to possibly great food. We ordered guacamole which had stray jalapeno seeds that added the most gentle of heat. Next was an order of all four ceviches. Yes, all four. Yes, it was a good idea. No, I didn’t like sharing.
My favorite was Ceviche Peruano which is fluke, leche de tigre, red onion, rocoto, maiz cancha, choclo, sweet potato puree. This was amazing! The puree was perfectly smooth and a great base to the ceviche. Cancha is a Mexican style corn nut (small kernels on the lower right) while the other larger pieces of corn were plump and sweet. The fluke was tender and smooth. If you didn’t know it was fluke you would swear it scallop; that’s how smooth it was. The onion added a great bounce to this sweeter ceviche.
My Dad’s favorite was Atun which is spicy yellowfin tuna, key lime, vidalia onion, radish, watermelon. Like the Peruano, this too was also sweet, but it had none of the earthiness to it that corn and sweet potatoes did. This reminded me much more of a coastline. The sweet kefir lime made itself known very early while the tuna had a little spice. The crunch from the radish was a great contrast to the silky tuna but the watermelon was really what tied this together. I was incredibly impressed and my dad was about ready to order a second one just for himself.
My next plate was definitely… interesting… it almost made my vegetarian parents sick. I like to think of myself as someone willing to try new things, even strange things in the ever increasing curiosity that I have around food. This knocked me down a good 2 pegs (a.k.a. nothing weird for a while). I ordered Chapulines Tacos. For those of you of Mexican heritage, you may have had chapulines, which is Spanish for grasshopper… Let that sink in.
Grossed out yet? Don’t be, at least not yet.
When you tell an American you eat grasshoppers, you will get looks ranging from horror to grossed out which is aligned with our irrational fear of them, especially because we don’t consider them a food which is terrible because some of them are are just pure protein. I saw this on the menu and started to laughing because I knew I was getting an order. My mom is horrified by bugs and I made sure to tease her. Grasshoppers have a very mild flavor so they are often roasted with chili powder and served as a snack, condiment or even in tacos. This time, it was tacos. My parents looked on in horror, meanwhile, I had Habanera from the opera Carmen playing in my head as the crunch of grasshoppers while the spicy and smokey flavor filled my palate. It was good, it was strange, it was… grasshoppery.
Ok, so chapulines are not my favorite thing, I found it hard to get past the mouthfeel and the very strong flavor of the chili, but I did like it. I packed up the remaining taco and it became my light night snack after 2 cans of Golden Monkey beer in its 9% glory. Refreshing and crunchy, just they way I like it.
For my entree, I was drawn to something called Tumbada which is roughly translated to “tumbled” which is very appropriate because this is a paella inspired dish. This dish, however, is not tumbled in the literal sense because it was fucking beautiful. This dish is a Veracruz-style paella, epazote-scented rice lobster, chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams, octopus achiote sauce, pico de gallo. The rice is tinted a slight green from the epazote which gave the rice a beautiful flavor or oregano, tarragon and citrus came right through.
On top, are layers of the proteins all topped with micro greens and pico sprinkled all around. The pico, which I initially dismissed, I later realized played a major role. The slight acidity from the tomatoes had a great contrast to the earthy and seafood tones in the dish. As much as I love paella I so often find it being very similar but this was completely different. I loved the addition of octopus which couldn’t have been more tender if you tried! The chorizo added the slight heat that is necessary in Mexican cuisinewhiled the shrimp was big, beautiful and juicy.
Overall, I was enthralled with the entire meal and want to thank Chef Medina for this! The Ceviche and Tumbada were so amazing I can’t wait to go back just to have it again. It was 10/10 amazing! I would love to get a peek inside their kitchen and learn more about how these dishes are made.
When you see something delicious, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it or find something better. Sometimes it’s easier than you think. Want to see more? like this post and hit subscribe! Don’t forget to check out our other social media accounts and comment below!
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