Empellon is supposedly one of the best Mexican restaurants around, and Alex Stupak is supposedly New York's Rick Bayless. I've been to both of his restaurants now, and I can say that I don't think he's quite Rick Bayless, but he's pretty darn good.
The restaurant bar had bold blue graffiti, and paintings from their Day of the Dead event covered the walls. The whole place had a hip young vibe with an undertone of grunge. The lights even flickered in and out.
We were here for a birthday, and our guest of honor was predictably late, so we started ordering some guacamole and salsa. The masa crisps were thick but crunchy. How could a midwestern girl say no to corn?
The guacamole wasn't great, but it was very good. The 7 different salsas came in little shot-glass sized cups, and we doled them out with little spoons. They came in spicy, really spicy, creamy, cashew, and tomatillo (those aren't the actual names, just the flavors that I remember. And yes this must mean that there was a 7th one that was not easily identifiable).
What better way to celebrate a friend who is on a diet than to order a starter of donuts? They were as soft and puffy as beignets, and came with chocolate, caramel, and strawberry sauces. The chocolate was just a little too liquid to drizzle... because it was actually the same chocolate as their drinking chocolate. It even came in the same cup! I am glad they serve their hot chocolates properly.
For my main, I ordered a poached duck egg with sweetbreads. The nuggets of sweetbread were delightful to eat. The exterior was still a little hot from the frier. The cheese tasted like crumbed cotija and gave the dish an extra kick. I found some delicious green chorizo gravy on the bottom that I didn't notice when I read the menu!
My bf got the melted tetilla cheese with tomato and lobster. It came with a stack of warm wrappers. The melty cheese did not stay in the wrappers very well, but I would not replace the wrappers with anything else. They were light and not too floury and went perfectly with the incredible filling. I was offered a bite and ended up taking 3... and I'm lactose intolerant.
Our party crasher is a regular, and he ordered the scrambled eggs with chorizo, so it must be good. I am not having scrambled eggs for a while after I had it almost every day in the bush, so I cannot tell you first hand how it tastes. The two people who ordered this dish did clean up their plates rather quickly.
The buttermilk masa pancakes were also very popular, and each pancake was bigger than my face. The birthday boy ate 1.5 servings.
If it weren't for the location of this restaurant, I'd come more often. But for those who don't mind visiting the east village, it's a great place to be! I've been to Empellon Taqueria for dinner in my pre-blogging life, and it was also amazing. Their brunch menu looks different though - more tacos and fewer innovative brunch dishes.