"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hecho en Dumbo - December 19, 2010

On a cold night wandering around Lower East Side, this rather quaint place seemed like an interesting candidate to be my true and real Mexican restaurant. I took a picture of the menu for later careful perusal. Once snugly tucked in on my couch, the menu did not seem as promising, and thus, the venue did not present sufficient evidence for further pursuit. Another case closed. However, many months later, this restaurant resurfaced on the radar screen upon a strong recommendation. Hello again. Shall I give it a go this time? Missed-fish always seems bigger (Japanese proverb). Perhaps the timing was not right the first time around; but maybe, just maybe, there was a reason that we had met again. Although the restaurant was not “missed,” when you hear someone else describe it, sometimes it sounds better, doesn’t it?

Picaditas de Jaiba

Two small rounds of plumb corn masa came topped with fluffy and lumpy shredded crab meat. The crab was bright with fresh lime juice and adequately seasoned. The sliver of avocado rendered a mellow richness against the pungent lime. However, the pleasantries ended here. Each corn masa medallion was sitting in an individual pool of frying oil, which had oozed out in the long time that it cooled, so much so that even though I promptly placed the medallion on a paper napkin, my fingers left greasy finger prints on seemingly every surface on the table. Any decent chef would have shaken off the excess oil after frying; this necessary and rudimentary step was somehow neglected (or considered redundant) at Hecho de Dumbo. When I insisted that this offensive medallion, now missing a crescent – I only suffered a bite, to be taken off our table, our waiter gave us a rather bewildered look.

Queso Fundido de Huitlacoche with Fresh Epazote

Cheese fondue, or queso fundido, seemed perfect for a cold night (which was going to be every night for the next four months). Cheese fondue, with white wine and garlic, to which I like to sprinkle some chopped herbs at home, was what I had in my head. The fondue came charred on the sides, which was a nice touch. The cheese used was the flavorless type that is favored in Mexico; the virtue of cheese seems to be judged predominantly by its elasticity, not flavor. I had learned this fact in Mexico, so the lack of flavor was not the problem of this dish. The problem was its mediocrity. The promised unique fungus growing on corn was bland – they tasted just like any mushrooms (I had an opportunity to try these mysterious huitlacoche – they were surprisingly spicy – later at another establishment better endowed to gainfully employ this ingredient). The rest could be described in one word: Grease. The cheese released a surprising amount of oil, which did not do anything positive to the bland mess. In place of crusty French baguette, this dish was served with spineless flour tortilla. Was this to be just a deconstructed quesadilla? In any case, that was their problem to sort out, not mine.

Tacos - Salbutes de Cochinita Pibil

Juicy, tangy, pulled pork was dark with an intense flavor. The savory pureed beans rounded off the rough edges of the pork meat, while the pickled onions furnished another layer to the already flavorful combination. The accompanied salsa was hot and spicy, which picked out the flavor of pork even more. Although the menu claimed that the corn tortilla was “flash-fried,” what actually came out was simply some warmed corn tortillas - a relief after that failed fried corn medallion. Their corn tortilla had an attractive nuttiness, which made the tortilla enjoyable even by itself. These tacos were the best and the only good dish that came to our table that night.

Mole Coloradito de Pato

The duck was seared rare, too rare, despite noting as “medium-rare” on the menu. The mole sauce was wanting in every way required in a good mole; the mole did not have the expected spiciness or the delightful gritty nuttiness typical of mole. The predominant impression was its greasiness. However, so far the dish was merely uninteresting and boring, not inedible. Little did I know, but there was a surprise waiting in ambush under the duck for me – the creamy rice with shredded duck confit and delicate squash. The duck confit in the rice was overly gamey; combined with the mushy and subtly sweet squash, I found myself getting drowning in a muddy quagmire. I pride myself on decent eating manner; after all, I do pay respects to the food I am eating (although I do talk and eat at the same time – unavoidable and forgivable, surely? I would not want to bore my dinner guests, do I, although I often wonder how the Queen does it at dinner parties…). Nonetheless, in this instance, the second the signal from my first bite reached my brain, it immediately sent an order that I should resort to the nearest paper napkin.

Hecho en Dumbo
Address: 354 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
Phone:  (212) 937-4245

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