Thursday, February 14, 2008

What a Dish!

Itzocan Cafe, in the East Village (438 E. 9th), is currently one of my favorite New York restaurants. The cozy (yes, tiny) space, with seating for about 14 and an open kitchen, reminds me of a Lyonnais bouchon. The cuisine is a blend of Mexican and French that works beautifully. It's not the plaything of some young chef who wants to make his mark with a novel combination, but rather the brainchild of two brothers from Puebla who learned French cooking techniques while working in the kitchens of French restaurants in New York City. Itzocan Cafe's menu items, in general, marry French technique to Mexican ingredients. My favorite dish at Itzocan, one that would surely make my top ten New York restaurant dishes list if I ever compiled one, is the sweet corn and huitlacoche souffle cake, one of their appetizers. Back in July of '06 I waxed elegiac about this dish:

The most rewarding item we tried was the sweet corn and huitlacoche souffle cake with truffle oil. This dish was incredibly sensual (bordering on erotic) in both taste and texture. A forkful, or a spoonful, of this light, custardy, but lighter than custard, moist, foamy concoction caresses the entirety of the mouth and gullet as it makes its inevitable way to the digestive tract. Its bouquet is at once complex and subtle, its mix of flavors a stroke of culinary genius, the sweet corn base providing a cozy bed upon which the aromatic huitlacoche and truffle flavors are allowed to have their way with each other. Huitlacoche, by the way, is a kind of fungus that grows on corn, and is a Mexican delicacy. So the dish is even a marriage of new and old world fungi.

I didn't have a camera with me that time, but I brought one on a recent return visit and shot the souffle cake.

I hadn't been to Itzocan for a while, but I seem to remember that the dish was previously made with yellow corn rather than blue. When I first ate at Itzocan, a year and a half ago, the dish was a steal at $6. Alas, prices have gone up somewhat since then and it's now going for a more realistic $9.

Itzocan Cafe on Urbanspoon


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