photo credit: Emily Schindler
Hotel restaurants welcome anyone off the street, but most have to appeal to the wide range of guests who are stealing mini shampoo bottles upstairs. That often means putting items like a burger, pasta, and roast chicken on the menu. Comodo at the Freehand hotel has all those things, but they’re prepared with a variety of Latin components like poblano crema, amarillo chili, and achiote. Even if you live in NYC and don't have a reason to stay at the Freehand, this restaurant is worth a visit for its distinctly-seasoned dishes that never leave you bored.
This Flatiron spot is from the team behind Colonia Verde, and like that place, the dishes here are influenced by countries like Mexico and Brazil. The food leans upscale, and we prefer the starters to the mains. The best one is the plate of juicy, thick lamb patties between pão de queijo slider buns with a chipotle cream sauce. A close second, the wild mushroom al ajillo tacos with Oaxaca cheese are smoky and slightly spicy from habanero ash. You may think the tacos are missing some kind of sauce at first, but if you sit with each bite for a few seconds and let the umami register in your brain, you'll realize a sauce would just get in the way.
If you’re considering the picanha with creamed spinach and farofa, don’t write it off as just another obligatory steak dish. When you taste how perfectly-cooked this top sirloin is, it'll suddenly dawn on you that a lot of places don't do steak that well. Similarly, the clam rigatoni isn't just thrown on the menu to appease your friend who only orders things resembling mac and cheese. (If you always think everything needs more butter, get it.) A side of house sourdough to sop up all the lemony sauce isn’t a terrible idea.
Yes, Comodo is in a hotel on 23rd Street, but—with its dim and energetic room—it feels more like a restaurant in Soho, where the first iteration of this spot was until 2017. The next time you have a friend coming to town for meetings about ETFs or NFTs (or whatever), and they ask you where to stay, point them to the Freehand. It’ll give you the perfect excuse to come to Comodo (not that you need one).
Pão De Queijo Lamb Sliders
Coming to Comodo without ordering this starter is like making a John Wick movie without Keanu Reeves. The warm chipotle mayo sauce is what makes this dish stand out, and you might want to turn a few orders of these sliders into your whole meal. So consider that before you get any mains.
Wild Mushroom Al Ajillo Tacos
With these tacos, you get meaty and smoky mushrooms with torn pieces of Oaxaca cheese piled onto corn tortillas, with some spice from habanero peppers. You might gravitate towards the carnitas tacos just because you always get carnitas tacos. That’s fair, but in this case, that would be the wrong move.
Shrimp Al Ajillo
This dish reminds us a lot of New Orleans-style barbeque shrimp. The orange sauce is oily and spicy, and you’ll want to dip everything in sight into it, so it’s good that toasted sourdough already comes on the side. The shrimp are unpeeled, and we prefer to eat them shell-on. (It’s less work.)
Grilled Littleneck Clam Rigatoni
This pasta is perfectly al dente, and the sauce is rich, but the latter is balanced by a lot of lemon zest and both costeño and amarillo chilis. Huge chunks of littlenecks—as opposed to the tiny clams in shells that you see at a lot of other places—are nestled throughout the bowl of rigatoni. Be sure to mix everything together before you take your first bite.
Pan-Fried Duck Breast
You’ll be told that the duck comes medium-rare, but it's arrived a little overcooked every time we’ve ordered it (so maybe try requesting it rare). Despite that, we love the salty, crunchy outer crust and the sweet tamarind glaze. We suggest eating the yucca purée while it’s hot because it gets pretty gummy as it cools. If you’re really in the mood for duck, get this. Otherwise, go with the picanha.
Admittedly, we ordered the picanha because we weren’t in the mood for anything else on the menu. We’re glad we did. A larger-than-expected portion of sirloin comes pre-sliced and perfectly medium-rare with a well-seasoned, charred bark. A pile of toasty farofa on the side has a sawdust-like texture, and it clings to everything you dip in it.
Are you into fried dough? Do you like cinnamon sugar and chocolate sauce? If you’re a non-dead human, the answers to those questions are likely, “Yes.” The desserts at Comodo are mostly mediocre, but you should order this one. The churros have a unique flaky texture that’s reminiscent of a buttermilk biscuit.