>> Casa Vieja Restaurant | Eat the World NYC

18 July 2018

Casa Vieja Restaurant


In 2009, Lourdes Peña took the jump from successful Red Hook Ballfields vendor to restaurant owner with her husband in Sunset Park. Originally, the menu was quite ambitious for the neighborhood, and the words "Fine Dining Mexican Cuisine" were prominent on the awning. Meat and seafood dishes went into the $20-25 range, and white people everywhere lost their minds on message boards and review sites. A Village Voice article even went so far as to call the prices "astronomical," an insult for sure to two talented Mexican chefs trying to offer something extraordinary. Apparently only chefs born north of the border were allowed to open restaurants charging that much for Mexican food.

In addition, the joint hired mariachi bands to entertain customers and delivered almost unanimously positive acclaim for their dishes. Unfortunately once the hype from various articles died down, business was not good enough to stay the same course and the menu has adapted itself back towards the median line of NYC Mexican. "Tortas Tacos Quesadillas" is now what adorns the awning in addition to the name.

I made a couple recent return visits, at first to chase down some old wise tales on Chowhound. Unfortunately some really rare dishes from Michoacán are no longer available, but the chefs are still talented and wonderful meals are still to be had at Casa Vieja.

One seeming leftover from these Michoacán specialties is the lomo de puerco adobado ($12.95, above), but this marinade uses a spiced up achiote sauce, more common in Yucatán. It is infused with pineapple of course, and then all covered with roasted poblano peppers, corn, and zucchini. It would be difficult to say sufficiently positive enough remarks about this surprising dish. The piles of pork were enough to take home a lot of leftovers and make adobado tacos later at home, which I sliced up some pineapples with and put on flour tortillas.

Further exploration of Yucatán flavor is possible with the salmon Yucateco, a dish we did not try. By the menu's description, it uses a similar sauce.

For our seafood quotient, an order of the mojarra frita ($13.95, below) was placed. This fried fish is stuffed with jalapeños, garlic, and onions before cooking (notice the slot underneath) and covered in a citrusy herb sauce.

The tinga de pollo here is outstanding, and a good vehicle for this are the uncommon-for-nyc molotes ($6, below), a half-moon shaped antojito not unlike an empanada but using a corn masa wrapper. At this price point, I was expecting a smaller portion, but this plate is more than enough to fill you up and on the first visit I was unable to eat anything else.

Molotes have their origins in Oaxaca, where you might find a vendor or three alongside more familiar antojitos vendors. They are usually a bit smaller than this and easy to eat with your hands on the sidewalk, but it was certainly no problem to tackle these with a fork and knife, as well as a bottle of cold beer.

Casa Vieja Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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