The reason so many ethnic restaurants in America have such similar menus is because they’ve become quite the comfort food, not least in Mexican restaurants where you’re just as likely to find burritos, quesadillas, and nachos at Taco Bell as in an upscale restaurant with doll décor of serapes, sombreros, and dia de Los Muertos. In fact, Tex-Mex fare is more widely served in America than regional Mexican food. Southwest cities tend to be more diverse like Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Tucson, but 21-year-oldsStCentury Mexican food is still a rarity.
Thank goodness, then, for the new Bar Tulix NYC, which opened on the edge of Soho last year, billing its cuisine as “coastal Mexican,” and serving up far more seafood than tacos. It’s the founder of Chef Justin Pazdarich (of Oxomoco in Greenpoint and Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn) and restaurateur John McDonald of Mercer Street Hospitality (Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, Hancock St.). Their customer-attracting experience begins with a cool design in a 65-seat dining area with a colorful bar that sparkles with liquor shelves that include an impressive number of tequila, mezcal, and stol.
As you can imagine, there are many margaritas. (Putting the word “bar” in the restaurant’s name wasn’t an empty decision.) Polished tile walls, a pink floor, orange pendant lamps casting a cheerful light, dark green booths, colorful banquettes and tall windows with amber displays of recycled wine bottles are not. She has shiny clichés to be seen. (There is only one main booth letting in an uncomfortable winter chill.) The night I visited the place was more than half full but not noisy, save for some gratuitous music. Unlike the dark and deafening Cosme, you can have a good night at Bar Tulix without shouting. Gentle GM Thomas McCumber does everything he can to make guests feel comfortable.
The menu by Justin Pazdarich and Chef de Cuisine Asia Shabazz displays a kind of regionalism rare elsewhere and serves it all with color and flourishes but no pretentiousness. The salsa trio with crisp tostados contains habanero, guajillo, and salsa cruda ($12) that gets you on a spicy road. Tuna tostaditos with mixed mayonnaise chintesle, smoked condiment Oaxaca Chili, seeds, and dried shrimp also make into concoctions with avocado, radish, and hibiscus ($22). A mix of raw seafood plated beautifully with avocado, rounds of cucumber, grilled pineapple, and radishes ($25). Baja-Style Guacamole with Green Salsa, Serrano Peppers, and Epazote Oil ($17) gains nothing from adding flavorless microgreens; It may very well be that the traditional jack can’t be improved upon.
Octopus is grilled to a delicious crispy dusting with paprika and served with red lentils, roasted red peppers and creamy hazelnut-studded romesco ($26). Veggie lovers will be thrilled with the savory agave-roasted squash with Pepita’s Pumpkin Seed Gremolata ($25), and Tolix’s nod to seafood shows off nicely in succulent branzino topped with masa, enhanced by a bouquet of herbs, and served in tender tacos with chipotle peppers and cucumber salad. and greens ($31).
Really generous is half a boneless chicken pastor With sweet refreshing pineapple jam, Guajel sauceLo, cilantro and corn, which, at $29, is a bargain. That’s how it is Cochinita Pebble of Roast Pork, infused with the flavors of pickled red onion, cilantro, and habanero sauce, for $34. Another delicacy here is the braised short rib with black beans, shishito peppers, and Veracruz nuts. Masha saucewith tortilla bread ($42).
melted cheese ($25) It was a bit pricey and bland, though it had chorizo peppers in it. A side of crispy red rice ($9) was delicious, dressed with guajillo and green onions.
We had a little room left for a couple of desserts: The chocolate brownie ($15) was a rich hit that, while moist, lacked the caramel richness I was expecting ($12).
Bar Tulix has “NYC” appended to their name as well, suggesting there may be others to open in New York or elsewhere – they have Lure Fishbars in Chicago and Miami – and I can imagine they would welcome anyone anywhere they might still cherish their gut. Old fashioned, but who would be tempted and excited by the uniqueness of the food here.
Tolix Bar New York City
25 West Houston Street
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