There's some Real Housewives caliber drama surrounding Chef Alex Stupak's new West Village Mexican joint Empellon right about now. It all blew up last week when a blogger invited himself into Stupak's kitchen only to [accuse him (http://www.opinionatedaboutdining.com/OADblog.php?ID=11499 "accuse him " )of being a traitor to his craft (Stupak was formerly master pastry chef atwd-50). Stupak rightfully defended himself and then other chefs allegedly called him a "douche." In the food world, this is equivalent to some RH Jersey table flipping drama.
As we're all well aware, Mexican food in Manhattan generally blows. Empellon hasn't come to save the day, but it isn't adding to the problem either. Offering a straight forward menu of fancy-ish Mexican dishes, it's a welcome addition to a hurting West Village roster including Diablo Royale and Maracas, both of which Empellon is significantly better than. While nothing blew us away, the food was solid with the good outweighing the bad. The guacamole was perfect and the signature cocktails and margaritas are excellent. One thing that should always be on the menu? Scotch egg taco. That was the best bite of the night. On the flip side, the tacos are too expensive. Fully stuffed or not, $12 for two is just too much. Also, the wait staff needs to be a little more disciplined and pay attention to detail. Constantly having to flag down the help because they're not showing your table love is annoying.
The crowd is standard [ West Village (http://www.immaculateinfatuation.com/neighborhood/west-village "WestVillage" ), similar to what you'll find overflowing from Wilfie and Nell next door. We spotted dudes in identical J-Crew button downs sitting back to back, both on what appeared to be [perfect_for slug="first-early-in-the-game- dates"]First/Early in the Game Dates[/perfect_for] and numerous tables full of ladies letting loose on Girls' Night Out.
Only time will tell if Stupak can prove the haters wrong. In the meantime, don't sleep on the late night menu. Tacos at 1am are always a good thing.
The guacamole had an ideal consistency; chunky enough without being clumpy.Spicy enough to provide a kick, but not require a sip of water after each bite. The chips were good (and came with free refills), as were the two salsas - a creamy Smoked Cashew and hot Arbol Chile. For $10, it's a nice serving size.
This one is only meant for those who can handle the fire. General consesus at our table was that this tuna ceviche with beets and guava puree was way too spicy. While everyone else was one forkful and done, I took the entire bowl down, thoroughly enjoying each bite.
Oh yes, this is where it's at. Go heavy on the Queso Fundido section and make sure you get this tetilla cheese with peppers and cactus. Tetilla means nipple in Spanish apparently. Obviously, we can get behind cheese shaped like a titty.
Underwhelming. The short rib wasn't that good, neither was the corn tamale. Skip.
Big, messy tacos that missed that extra something to make them awesome. The green chorizo is a nice touch.
This one is their bread and butter. Served with salsa borracha, they burn through a ton of these huge mounds of lamb taco a day. We see why, too. Get into some of this action..
A weak amount of fish brings this otherwise enjoyable taco with cabbage and lime mayo down. Still worth an order, we just wish there was another strip of fried tilapia.
There's nothing we love more than egg in our tacos. This needs to be a permanent fixture on the menu. Chef, well done. More please
Highly recommended by our waitress, but a dish we could have easily done without. The ribs were fatty and minimal in actual meat. It came with polenta and longaniza sausage (chorizo), both of which helped, but couldn't save this. Off the plates section, definitely go with the Skirt Steak instead.
Mini fried dough ballsthat must be on your table to close out this meal. Served with two different dipping sauces, Cajeta ("confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelised milk" says Wiki) and Warm Honey. Ridiculous.