I never wanted the blog to sink into restaurant reviews, but one restaurant is still in my mind since mid-January… It was such a good dining experience that it is worthy of note.
El China de Puebla, located at 3143 Broadway in New York City, forever will be ingrained in my heart, and tastebuds. Run by Ian Nal, the place is simply decorated but stylish, with a big banana tree in the middle of the restaurant, and a gorgeous bar home to any number of intriguing bottles. The reason(s): primarily, the Mexican flourless chocolate cake. Served warm but next to a beautiful bit of ice cream, and with hibiscus coulis, the dish is simply OUT OF THIS WORLD. And coupled with Ian’s excellent wine pairings, the meal was particularly magical; Ian is a sommalier, in addition to having a dynamo knack for knowing what works in this mexican-asian cuisine dining establishment. I have been meaning to say thank you to Ian for a long time now for the excellent meal or two (I had to come back after the first great experience!) – a huge thank you!
Mexican-Asian fusion is no easy feat to pull off – at one hole-in-the-wall place in NYC during the same two weeks I ended up with a “veggie tacos” consisting of a hard (but made mushy by juices) corn taco shell filled only with Chinese-style steamedvegetables, including snow-peas and bamboo shoots! El China de Puebla’s quesadilla with shitakes and huitlacoche flower was immensely refreshing. As far as I’m concerned, El China de Puebla mastered executing fusion cuisine, somehow classically New York in its eccentricity, diversity in the menu, and its seriousness about doing food and drinks well. It goes way beyond the fixed notions we might have had about what constitutes a single cultural cuisine in its fusions.
The legend behind the China de Puebla is also worth noting: El China was an Asian princess who was sold by the Spaniards into servitude in Mexico in 1620, and became well-respected for her beauty, piousness, and generosity. She always wore typically Mexican colors (red, white, and green) and as such became an iconic figure of Mexican womanhood. The story is a compelling reminder about the consistency of cultural diaspora over extensive periods of time and over impressive geographic expanses.