Habanero Blues

I had the opportunity to visit this restaurant for a fun event. I haven’t become a big fan of Mexican food, but I do enjoy high quality, tasty Mexican cuisine. I haven’t heard of this restaurant before, but then again, us New Yorkers tend avoid midtown filled with tourists like a plague sometimes…LOL. And, this restaurant has been in operation for only about a year and a half. The first thing I saw when I entered was a big welcome sign on the top.

The inside is quite large, really grand, which is rare in NYC. And, thinking that it is located in Midtown, the space they have is quite impressive. They had a huge dining area on the ground level, with small second floor seating going around the surrounding walls. The space feels even bigger with the ceiling going from floor all the way up to the ceiling of second floor. Gigantic chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling.

They had a fully stocked bar that was as gigantic as the chandeliers. Very fitting to the large space. I liked the blue and white tile on the back wall of the bar, as back-splash. It was beautifully lit, making all the bottles on the shelf to appear even more enticing.

And the decor. I really liked their festive and rustic decor. They had old, rustic looking aluminum on walls, and the divider of dining area were made with ropes. Most of the walls were wood, and others bright indigo tiles. The decoration that reminds of countryside brought warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I was quite impressed with not only the space, but the fun decor. They certainly have taken their time to make this place to look pretty darn awesome. They had lots of table seating, and some high table with bar stools as well. The servers were dressed with cowboy hats and plaid shirts, which is interesting… I wonder if they are trying to go for more of Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican theme?

At this event, we got to try some their food and drink offerings on the house. Again, I am not a huge fan of Mexican food, but as soon as they brought out the chips, they got my curiosity high! The chips came with a table-top stove looking thing, with a little tea light candle in the middle. It was then topped with a cheese dip. Awesome!

The cheese dip, Queso Fundido is a creamy blend of cheeses, chili & spices. It came in a small iron skillet, and was really fun item to have with chips! The regular menu item is priced at $11.99. It was nice and cheesy, creamy and tasty. Not spicy but mild and creamy.

They also brought us a bowl of Tradicional Guacalmole. They have a choice of Mild or Spicy, and the regular menu item is priced at $13.99. I am not sure if we were given mild or spicy…I think it could go both ways… The diced red peppers on the top was REALLY spicy, but the rest of the guacamole was not. It had a lime wedge which I squeeze a bit over the guacamole. It added refreshing flavor to the guacamole.

The chips were crispy, not oily at all which was great. The Guacamole came with one long plantain chip. It was very crispy and crunchy, with a little sweetness to it. Pretty good. It was all nice and fresh, I enjoyed the crunchy chips with the fresh guacamole and creamy cheese dip.

Now, the drinks. We first tried some of their Margaritas. I chose Mango Margarita, and it was nice and strong. But, it tasted like mango syrup, and not so much the real mango fruit. I like sweet fruity drinks, but not so much syrup-y drink. It was still tasty, but not the best I ever had.

My husband chose Peach Margarita, and it was actually better flavored than the mango. I usually like mango flavored drinks than peach flavored ones, but in this case, I preferred the peach one. It somehow had better fruity flavor and less syrup-y flavor.  The regular menu item is priced at $12 each.

Then, we got to sample their Mexico City street style corn, Esquites en Vaso. They actually take the corns off the cub at the restaurant, not canned or frozen corns niblets. it is seasoned with chipotle aioli, cotija cheese and cayenne pepper.

The corns were warm, plump and tasty. Comforting with just a little kick from the cayenne pepper. The aioli and cheese balanced out the spiciness of the pepper, interesting little side dish.  The regular menu item is priced at $5.99

It was time to get another drink. This time, we went with frozen kind, Margaritas Congeladas. Since I liked the peach margarita, I went with peach here. My husband went with more interesting one, Sangrita, which is a mix of sangria and margarita. The regular menu item for frozen margaritas are priced at $15 each.

The drink came in a very cute glass with cactus as the stem of the glass. I thought these were a bit stronger than the regular margaritas. They were smooth and tasty! Frozen Margarita is always fun to drink. Peach one was good, it had chunks of small peaches in it, which was great, but not so great with the thin straw… It was very difficult to drink with the peach chunks getting stuck at the bottom of the straw all the time. They need to invest in thicker straw… Sangrita was great, I liked it even better than the peach. They were both sweet, kind of syrup-y again, but the icy texture and flavor cut down the sweetness just a bit.

Next food sample was Flautas with guacamole and picante sauce. It is usually stuffed with potato & chorizo, but we were told that these were stuffed with chicken. It looked similar to spring rolls.

Lots of soft and juicy meat, packed with flavor. It was not spicy but rather sweet. The exterior was super crunchy, and both guacamole and picante sauce went great with it. The regular menu item (with chorizo) is priced at $12.99.

It was time for our last drinks. We wanted another frozen margarita, and one called “Flaming Margarita” but we were out of luck on both items. First, their frozen margarita machine broke down…seriously… And, we were told that the Flaming Margarita was not something we could “sample” on the house. So, instead, we got regular margaritas.

My hubby got a regular Sangrita, and I went with Strawberry-flavored Margarita. They were nice and strong, but very sweet. It was more syrup-y than the frozen kind, especially the strawberry one. Not a fan of syrup-y cocktail…

The last sample food we received was a selection of tacos. It had fish, beef, pork, and vegetarian. It had whatever the special sauce on each. However, if you want to make it more flavorful with a little (or a lot of ) kick, they had three kinds of hot sauce on each table. The regular menu items for tacos go from $15.99 to $17.99, which comes with three tacos, rice and black beans.

Pecado Frito, or fried fish taco, came with Baja crispy fish, slaw, pickled onion, and white sauce. The “white” sauce was more like yellow. The shape of the fish made me thing of one of those fish sandwich from fast-food chains… The fish was nice and flaky, juicy and tasty. It had crispy exterior without feeling oily. It was quite delicious, I didn’t add any extra sauce since it was flavorful already on its own.

Al Pastor is made with rotisserie pork marinated in adobo, chipotle & pineapple juice. This one I thought didn’t have as much flavor. The meat was tender and cooked really nicely, but this one needed the picante sauce a bit more than others. It was indeed more tasty once I added the picante sauce.

Bistec a la Plancha is made with beefsteak with cilantro & onions. It had nice texture of tender, juicy, and crunchy all in one. Awesome flavor but I added a little bit of picante sauce, which enhanced the flavor even more.

We were told the vegetarian one is made with mushroom, but I don’t see any taco with mushroom on their menu… The filling or stuffing was mostly corn, very fresh. It had a nice kick to it.

The bathroom is located all the way in the back. The door sign was cute, I thought, with Hombres and Mujeres on the door. The exterior of the bathroom with aluminum walls and the metal sun made me think of some western or Texan dessert… The inside was clean and bright. I liked the blue tile floor.

Now, this restaurant had TV screens everywhere for sports fans. What I didn’t realize was, how serious they were with their TVs!!! I know some super-duper serious sports fanatics don’t like to go to the bathroom, for fear of missing a big score or some kind of big action. Here, you don’t need to worry because they have a small TV screens attached at each sink!!! This was true to both men and women bathrooms.

The staffs were all really nice, helpful and very friendly. The food was tasty but I thought they were really pricey. I believe most of the items we received, other than the Mexico City street style corn was a real menu size. I don’t think I have ever been to any restaurant that charges $13.99 for a small bowl of guacamole, and $11.99 for cheese dip… The reminder of items also felt over-priced. Then again, it is Midtown… But for this price, I would expect much larger portion or a dish that is much more special. When it comes to Mexican, I still say the very special, high-quality, elevated Mexican food at The Black Ant (you can read about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/the-black-ant/) holds my heart.

 

Habanero Blues – 29 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018

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