Because I’m constantly trying to discover new restaurants in the city, I rarely return to the same ones (unless, per my made-up rule, I bring someone new). But there are times I have “moments” with certain restaurants — my go-to’s that I like to bring everyone to since I’m pretty sure they’ll leave the meal feeling more than satisfied. My current relationship for this very reason is with Tacombi in Nolita. The first time I went, per my friend Sadia’s suggestion, it was a blistering cold night. One of those nights that we probably would have ended up ordering in at either of our apartments, but I figured I could use a change of scene. The moment I walked into Tacombi, I felt like I left the cold city far behind. It felt like a beach party in here:
It had a very fun, very non-pretentious vibe. The menus came out on a slip of paper, and we quickly ordered guacamole and the corn esquites to start.
When it came out, the waitress told me not to forget to squeeze the lime on the corn and mix it up before we ate it. Both were so fresh and especially appreciated the spicy chili powder mixed in with the corn.
Whenever I go to a new place, I use Foursquare to see what ‘tips’ other diners have left, and the crispy fish tacos where overwhelmingly popular. I found out later from the owner that according to their sales, the crispy fish tacos are the most popular item on their menu — people order double of that amount than the next item (the chicken taco). I’m usually not one for fish, but I had to give it a try. I order that and the shrimp taco.
The tacos are small, but extraordinarily satisfying. I was already obsessed with the food, ambiance, and service that I came back a couple more times in the course of the next few weeks with more friends. Honestly, I don’t feel like Mexican food is NYC’s forte, as say places in California based on the places I’ve eaten at so far – and Tacombi made me regain my faith that there is hope. Everything is so fresh and tasty. Completely coincidentally, I was invited to come for a food tasting a week later, where I met the owners and chef (an adorable Luis Aguilar Puente, whom Tacombi brought over straight from Mexico after owner Dario Wolos was overwhelmingly impressed with the sauce he prepared in the food he ate…albeit during Sandy, but Luis didn’t complain about the timing), and learned more about the food.
This time I sampled the food under the guidance of Dieter Wiechmann (Tacombi’s co-owner) on what house-blended sauces I could try with the tacos. Seriously, the tacos are already good on their own, but the sauces bring it to a whole other level! Dario explained to me later in Mexico they are huge on sauces. “Anyone can cook decent chicken or meat, but what really sets one dish from another are the sauces you eat with them.”
I tried some of the green chili sauce with the shrimp (superb), and interestingly enough, Dieter recommended the sweet sauce with the fish (mind-blowing).
I also tried the fish ceviche (I know, I don’t even know who I am anymore). It comes with chips and saltines — with the latter is how they traditionally eat it in Mexico. I couldn’t believe how much I even liked the citrusy fish here. I feel like Tacombi was really challenging my taste preferences, and I’m happily converting. Just out of curiosity, I asked Dieter if he eats here everyday (I kinda always wondered if restaurant owners do), and he confirmed my suspicion. “The thing is, all the ingredients are really fresh but also made with really simple ingredients so even after eating here day after day, I won’t feel like I’m feeling sick of my stomach is having enough.” Plus, what better way to test out quality control but to have to owner order from the restaurant daily?
Right now, they are running a special taco of the week — the week before was octopus (which turned out to be immensely popular), and they were also testing out lamb. The most dishes might make it to the regular menu, but they’re taking it by week to experiment.
I should also mention the refreshing, light drinks they serve which I was able to get a tasting of. The horchata (rice milk with cinnamon), herbal hibiscus, watermelon, and pineapple are richly refreshing (the hibiscus is the only one that is more bitter, but loaded with antioxidants…it’s more of a mood drink) all which I can only tell will be even more in demand come spring and summer time.
And PS, none of the tacos on their menu are over $6. Consider this deal sealed…I think I can make an exception to my restaurant rule for some places.
Meal: Lunch and Dinners
(Out of three stars)
Service: *** (Staff here have always been INCREDIBLY nice)
Would I go back?: Over and over again.
267 Elizabeth St.
at E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012
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