35 East 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
Contact | 212.913.9659
Cosme is proof that people make the dining experience. Of course the food should also be superb, which it is, at Chef Olvera’s Manhattan institution. But everything tastes even better when the staff, from hostess to bartender, love what they do.
We ventured into the city for a birthday brunch, and wanted to give Cosme a shot given reviews by a number of patrons that mentioned how much their children enjoyed the meal. It’s not the type of place one would think of as kid-friendly given its world renowned chef and place on many esteemed best-restaurant lists. They don’t need to be, but they are.
We booked a brunch-time table at 11 am, when they open. Parker decides to throw a fit, but the entire staff was so thoughtful, helping to calm him down by showing him around the restaurant and bringing out cookies and sliced fruit.
This warmth is felt in the food as well. Serious in quality yet playful in orchestration, Cosme shines a revolutionary light on Mexican cuisine.
If you order only one entree, order the duck enmoladas. Blanketed in a pool of rich mole and spots of creme fraiche, the duck is wrapped in a fresh tortilla that somehow manages to remain un-soggy. The dish looks deceivingly simple, with the mole taking up most of the real estate, which makes the complexity of the flavor that much more delightful. The sauce is sweet for just a moment at the beginning before turning savory with a kick of spice. This mindboggling transformation happens with every bite.
I asked the waiter to recommend another entree, and he suggested the huevos rancheros. This is no ordinary huevos rancheros. It’s almost an antithesis to the heaviness associated with Mexican food. The tomato sauce here is delicate and light, almost visually transparent. The mushroom adds a beautiful earthy tone to the refried black beans and soft queso fresco.
Preceding these entrees, we shared a stuffed avocado and uni tostada to start. These are punchier in flavor as appetizers should be. The horseradish addition to what would have been an ordinary seafood-filled avocado really made the dish. The kicker to the uni tostada is the bone marrow salsa. Bone marrow. That’s all that needs to be said.
The meal ended strong, if not at its strongest, with a pair of amazing desserts. The churro and chocolate dipping sauce is made fresh to order. The ribbon of crispy fried dough comes as one long, entangled knot in what is a masterful showcase of kitchen art.
But what really swept me away was the corn husk meringue. I’m not a merignue fan, but this creation is above what dessert one likes or doesn’t like. First off, it’s a visual stunner. A palm-sized off-white meringue that’s naturally cracked open, oozing out corn-flavored mousse. I’m not a mousse fan either, for the record, but again, this thing rises above preferences. The crunch and cream are just subtly sweet, with pops of saltiness emerging every now and then. It’s like tasting corn for the first time.
Cosme for brunch was all-encompassing. It was a Mexican meal that transcended the origins of its roots and went above and beyond from the moment we walked though its doors. The pristine first impression makes me a little hesitant to go back for dinner. But I will, after basking in the memory of this one for a while longer.