The folks from Traif have a new Mexican(ish) restaurant, and they’ve elected to name it Xixa, pronounced “shiksa.” For those of you ladies out there who aren’t of the tribe, that’s basically what a Jewish guy’s mother might call you once the two of you started dating – at least when she’s talking to her friends. Add that up with the name of their first place (“traif” is a word for non-Kosher things like pork and shellfish), and we’re officially impressed with both the food these guys cook and their acumen for coming up with restaurant names that might piss off the nearby Hasidic community. If there’s a Hebrew word for “unholy bread monster,” it’s definitely going to end up being the name of a bakery someday.
We’ve said for a while that we think Traif is an excellent and under-appreciated restaurant, and now that we’ve been to Xixa, we’re even more convinced that this team is putting out some of the best food in Brooklyn. Xixa is a small restaurant with a big, Mexican influenced menu, and it’s full of interesting and delicious things that are worth a trip to South Williamsburg for. There are about thirty different small plates on the menu here at any given time, and in our experience, ten to twelve of those things will absolutely blow your mind. The rest are inspired-but-decent at worst, and absolutely none of it is going to bum you out. As long as you’ve got someone to guide you through the menu (Immaculate Infatuation at your service), you should have a pretty exceptional meal at this place.
Really, the only thing that’s standing in front of us and an even higher rating of Xixa is a fairly serious conceptual flaw. You see, everyone that you encounter at the restaurant will explain to you that this menu is meant for sharing. They’ll tell you to order a bunch of stuff and split it amongst the group. And then they’ll start bringing you plates that are completely the opposite of ideal for sharing. Interested in those steak tacos? I hope all four of you aren’t, because it only comes with three tortillas. Those duck lettuce wraps sound good, don’t they? Well, they are. But they only come with a few pieces of lettuce, and there’s hardly enough of the delicious fixins on the plate to finish off more than one wrap. You can read more about it in the Food Rundown, but essentially, this place can be frustrating for anyone not dining in a group with odd numbers. Maybe we should start a new category called Perfect For: “Dinner With A Third Wheel,” and put Xixa at the top of the list.
There are a few other things we could gripe about too (inconsistent service, cramped dining room), but ultimately Xixa is a restaurant you absolutely need to visit in the very near future. The food that’s coming out of this kitchen is really, really good. And if you haven’t been to Traif yet, you need to put that on your Hit List too. Cheeky names aside, these people know what they’re doing.
Photo Credit: Victor Prado/New York Magazine
Spicy Shrimp Gorditas
Two amazing little rock shrimp gorditas with a spicy kick. There are a great way to kick off a meal at Xixa, and are highly recommended.
Spanish Mackerel Tartare
Another excellent item from the menu, and one that was actually relatively easy to share. You’ll get a nice serving of ceviche, a bunch of little home made tortilla chips, and some avocado mousse. Make little bites and be happy.
Guacamole “Nam Prik Num”
We weren’t all that crazy about the guacamole options on the menu, mostly because we’re sort of purists when it comes to the stuff. This is some kind of Southeast Asian version, served with puffed rice, jicama, and carrots. It will do if you’re dying for some guac, but don’t go out of your way for it.
Grilled Carrots “Elote”
Quite possibly the most popular dish at Xixa. It’s basically two carrots done up like your favorite Mexican corn – but with Feta, dill, coriander, honey butter, and a lime crema. This is some genius sh*t, and you want at least two servings on your table. Good lord.
Corn Flan “Tamale”
This is basically a corn custard that tastes a lot like a tamale, topped with blue crab and a poblano-garlic cream. It’s excellent, and not like anything you’ve eaten before, even though the flavors are so familiar. This is also a must order.
Duck Lettuce Wraps
This dish is the epitome of what can be so frustrating about Xixa. A big, beautiful pile of shredded spiced duck is served to you on a plate with like four pieces of lettuce and a tiny little dollop of roasted banana puree. It’s an incredible dish, but the portions are all out of whack. Lots of duck, very little delicious banana stuff, and a few weak pieces of romaine. Give me more to work with please. Either way, you need to eat this. Just be prepared. Maybe bring some leafy greens from home.
Another example of frustration at the table. These are basically build your own “tacos,” and the taco meat is steak tartare and roasted bone marrow. Spread them both inside a silver dollar sized tortilla and get to grubbin’. But there’s only three of those little tortillas. On both visits we asked for one more. The first time our waitress happily agreed. The second time around we might as well have been asking the dude to give up Anne Frank. Sorry man. Didn’t realize it was that serious.
Foie Gras Al Pastor
Under no circumstances do you skip this. Two perfectly seared pieces of foie gras sit atop some kind of grilled chipotle pineapple. There’s other stuff in there too, but I think I blacked out after a few bites. You might as well just have this for dessert.
Just in case you still need dessert after your foie gras dessert, this is the way to go. A few salty/sweet churros with ice cream never did anybody wrong.
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