Dear Food Diary:
I was shocked when Recipe – one of my favorite brunch spots on the UWS closed last year. Shorty after, Cocina Economica’s sign was up. I wasn’t amused. Why close a great place beloved by so many?
Word in the barrio was that chef/owner David Bank was so impressed with his Sous Chef Pedro’s home-style Mexican meals (cooked for staff) – he wanted to showcase it. Changing everything from name to decor.
Lucky for us, we get to try a really different take on Mexican food.
First time I walked into Cocina Economica, I had to get use to the change, in every single detail. Bank was serious about this.
StalkerBoy and I love his Pure Thai Cookhouse and Land Thai Kitchen, so we knew we were in good hands flavor wise. But because a lot of Mexican spots serve the same old same old, I had my doubts…
Most times you’ll find me there over brunch, but we’ve also had lunch once and let me tell you – fresh conch in their Ceviche. Si!
Avocado Corn Bread
Exactly what you think it is. And it tastes like so. I wanted to believe the avocado gave it a creamier consistency, but it really didn’t. A hint of flavor and maybe kept it moist, but that could be my imagination. A good sweet starter nonetheless.
Tacos wise, I’ve tried them all – cactus, octopus, chicken, chorizo-longaniza, pork shoulder, beef cheek, NY steak (minus the lamb). I find myself coming back to the tender, smokey octopus taco each time. At $4, it doesn’t appear to me as “street snacks” menu item, but the simplicity of good components – perfect octopus, corn tortilla, cilantro and onion makes me forget about money and concentrate on the pleasure.
Overall, the prices are quite fair.
Their Quesadillas are also fantastico. I love the oaxaca cheese, so mozzarella-ey but with even more pull to it. A toothsome, milky elasticity without loosing that oozing soft cheesy appeal. The crisp toasted edges are my favorite.
The Octopus Quesadillas is another winner. The epazote (leafy vegetable) in between, hits the palate first with an anise/fennel aroma. After that the poblano chiles fills your mouthful with just the right amount of heat and sweetness.
I had Cactus before and was never a fan. Their version is soft like a cross between cooked cucumber, aloe and green beans. They’ve also spent quality time on the grill. Making the whole package a superbly smokey, cheesy, crunchy and oh so “I don’t miss meat at all” bite.
My favorite entree is this Beef Cheeks Res con Frijoles. It’s so comforting and hearty, without being heavy or salty. The stew also has beans, collard greens, zucchini, radish and a light dusting of cotija cheese.
This is as homestyle cooked as it gets. And thought I’ve never been to Mexico nor an Mexican home, that feel good mama’s dish transcends boundaries. It reminds me of a hearty Chinese soup with beans.
I usually ordered it with either poached or sunny side up eggs.
The Market Vegetable comes with all the good for you ingredients like lentils, swiss chard, kale, carrots, zucchini. But Pedro also adds some jicama for that sweet fresh crunch. The surprise at the end is his pipicha tomatillo salsa’s kick.
There’s also good Pork Enchiladas (can’t find that photo, sorry).
Chorizo and Cheese is also muy bueno. I could lick that chipotle sauce off the mini pan. There’s a mix of poblano peppers, kale, cilantro, oaxaca cheese. Similar to what’s stuffed into the quesadilla only smothered with the sauce. It makes a mess when I break the yolk, but ohhhh, what good mess it is.
The guacamole however isn’t their strong sell, though they do come with blue chips, I would skip them.
Definitely worth your trek to the UWS. Nos vemos alli. Can’t wait to try their dinner menu.
452 Amsterdam Ave.