Cosme (World’s 50 Best Discovery Series)
Add: 35 E 21st St, New York, NY
Tel: +1 (212) 913 9659
Hours: [lunch] Mon-Fri 12:00pm-2:30pm; [brunch] Sat-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm; [dinner] Sun-Thur 5:30pm-11:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12:00am
Price: USD50-85 (+tax and gratuity)
Visited: November 2016
Will return: Yes
Nestled in the Flatiron district, Mexican restaurant Cosme set New York abuzz with anticipation a full year before it served its first tortilla in 2014. Chef-owner Enrique Olvera made his name at his Mexico City restaurant Pujol, currently ranked No.25 in World’s 50 Best, where he elevates Mexican cuisine from street food to fine dining. With Cosme, he throws in more casualness and familiarity, but still defies how Americans think about Mexican food. On the one-page menu, guacamole is exiled to the lower left corner – almost as if they’re daring you to order it – while tacos and quesadillas are banished off the sheet entirely.
What the menu offers instead are many dishes I could hardly pronounce – tlayuda, anyone? – as well as familiar ingredients put together in unlikely combinations, such as the uni tostada gracing nearly every table. The salsa was a bit too sour for the delicate sea urchin, but the avocado provided just enough richness to cushion the gentle heat lingering at the back. The mellowing influence of avocado was at work again against a heart of octopus and prawn cocktail, tantalizingly spicy and tangy with a vibrant sauce and a shaving of horseradish.
Uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber
Stuffed avocado, seafood vuelve a la vida, horseradish
After the sharp and punchy flavors of the appetizers, the duck enmoladas were far from explosive, but even more memorable. Plump tortilla parcels filled with tender braised duck were smothered in mole rojo, its spices mild but insistent. You could eat this every week, and it wouldn’t stop tasting new.
Duck enmoladas, mole rojo, crème fraîche
Less invigorating was the lamb barbacoa, hidden beneath a verdant blanket of quelites and shishito peppers. The lamb was fork-tender but rather bland, a long way from what it could be. The most exciting thing about this dish were the two habanero peppers on the side, which anyone with a normal tolerance for heat and a moderate sense of self preservation would do well to stay away from.
Lamb barbacoa, shishitos, quelites, avocado, salsa
Dessert ended the meal on a high note. One of the most Instagrammed desserts in the city, a meringue made with burned and pulverized corn husks, striking with its eerie grayish hue, was cracked open in half to sandwich a pool of corn mousse and vanilla cream. The result wasn’t half as challenging as it might seem – an intriguing and glorious mix of crunchy, gooey, sweet, and salty.
Husk meringue, corn mousse
Although my meal at Cosme left something to be desired, it was still exciting to taste Mexican flavors rendered through a global lens. Without being terribly concerned with authenticity or tradition, Chef Olvera and chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes manage nonetheless to deliver a compelling interpretation of the spirit of Mexican food. It’s hard to fault their peers for trying to adapt Mexican flavors to American palettes. But then you eat at Cosme, and it’s hard not to wonder what you’ve been missing all these years.