Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Empellon is overrated

Wanted to go, heard it was good. Great NYTimes review. So I booked a table for 2 a week in advance via OpenTable.

I should have known something was wrong when Empellon called me the day of my reservation and said that we were having a 6-course tasting that night, with wine pairings, and that was our only option. Our reservation was held hostage unless I forked over a credit card number. I found this to be poor customer service, but I wanted to believe that Empellon was worth it, so I acquiesced.

Of 6 courses, 5 were average or below. 1 was brilliant:
1. Periwinkle (snail) Ceviche. Tasty but not exceptional.
2. Tamales. Good, but not better than good homemade tamales.
3. Huevos Motulenos. Brilliant dish: an over-easy egg over fried corn tortillas, beans, cheese. It's traditionally a breakfast dish, but I'd have that any time. Interesting textures, complex mix of flavors.
4. Venison Sausages with Succotash: Good sausages.
5. Sorbet. It's sorbet.
6. Almond Cake. Dry and flavorless. It was paired with La Gitana Manzanilla, a Spanish sherry that was so disgusting, both my dinnermate and I sent it back immediately. It smelled and tasted like feet.

Portions were small. I left feeling like I'd had lunch. Oh, I also had a margarita before dinner, which was billed as one of the most exceptional margaritas in the city. It's just a Skinny Girl minus the orange liquor. Not very special.

The service was attentive. Our main server was friendly and knowledgable but we didn't see her much. Our alternate server (who mostly served water and wines) was very attentive and friendly but didn't know much about the food or the wine.

Conclusions? Three pieces of advice. 1) Don't go. 2) If you do go, avoid their tastings. 3) Don't believe the Times.