NYC — Summer 2015: El Vez

Monday, September 14, 2015
On Wednesday evening, we made the trek down to Battery Park to meet up with my brother and his fiancée for dinner at El Vez. I don't really get a chance to eat a lot of Mexican food in Toronto, so when my brother suggested his favourite Mexican restaurant in NYC for a more relaxing, casual dinner, I was all up for it. The space is downright huge for Manhattan standards, taking up an entire half-block of Vesey Street, so it's great for group outings and bigger parties, and you will similarly find Wall Street types and families with toddlers in the same room. El Vez is described as a place that "celebrates the festive soul of Mexican and Mexican-American culture, a true south-of-the-border spirit that manifests itself in the restaurant's attitude and atmosphere." When you walk in, the place feels fun and lively but somehow also upscale and contemporary, and it translates into the menu.

Classic Guacamole

To start, it was a unanimous decision: guacamole. For me, you can't start a Mexican meal without guacamole. And I think it says a lot about the rest of a Mexican restaurant's offerings. We decided on the classic version, though they do also make a spicier version with mango and red bell peppers for those who want something a little more festive. The guac here is made with massive chunks of avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, onion, cotija cheese, and a squeeze of lime. It's served with a basket of light, freshly-fried tortilla chips and a little cup of zesty salsa on the side. It's not the most traditional or authentic (which usually has tomato and lemon juice and no cheese), but it's fresh and bright, incredibly tasty, and very satisfying. It's great for sharing, and I thought the portion was perfect for the four of us.

Tortillas, guacamole, salsa roja, sour cream, and salsa verde

Grilled shimp and grilled lamb tenderloin + Merguez sausage

We got two "Tacos al Carbon for 2," which is essentially a build-your-own taco platter. You can pick any combination of two meats for $38 (or if you're feeling especially hungry, you can go for three meats at $55), so my mom and I picked the shrimp and the grilled lamb tenderloin with Merguez sausage. The meats are presented in a gigantic stone bowl, along with grilled peppers and onions and queso fresco cheese, and on a separate platter are the warm flour tortillas and taco condiments: guacamole, two different salsas, and sour cream. You just build and eat as you please. The lamb is a perfectly cooked medium, super tender and moist, and not gamey at all (honestly, you could mistake it for steak); the shrimps are big, plump, and juicy. The amount of food is intense, though, at least to us. I've read some reviews that say the portions at El Vez are small, but my friends, the portion for the Tacos al Carbon for 2 is not small. Both my mom and I, and my brother and his fiancée (who had the chicken and lamb), had plenty of food left in our stone bowls, and that was after eating three stuffed tacos each. Perhaps our appetites are not American enough, but I'd say the tacos for two could easily feed three. (We were so full afterwards that we couldn't even think about getting dessert. I was about ready to explode out of my jeggings.) And while I don't know how authentic the food is here (and El Vez doesn't claim it to be; they say it's where "tradition and innovation collide"), El Vez offers some truly tasty Mexican dishes that will be sure to satisfy — so long as you’re not a Mexican food snob.

El Vez
259 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10281
(212) 233-2500
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