Okay, so I fucked up. I showed up on a recent Monday to this Mexican hot spot in Greenpoint, only to realize that I was a week early for my reservation. Completely mortified and slightly panicked given the fact that every seat was filled, I was immediately soothed by the gracious hospitality of the host. The wait looked like an hour, so she made room for me and my dining companions at the corner of the bar, where we ordered drinks and snacks.
Created by the Speedy Romeo team, the recently Michelin-starred Oxomoco felt like we were in a trendy Mexico City restaurant. Focused on wood-fired dishes, the restaurant exudes a faint campfire smell that spreads throughout the all-white dining room, accented only by the green ivy hanging from the skylights. We stood mesmerized by the glow emanating off the illuminated bar, lined with beautiful bottles of mezcal and tequila, ready to be shaken or stirred into cocktails.
Praise be a restaurant that still serves frozen drinks in the colder months. The frozen Paloma was a frosty beauty, pleasantly tart with ample floral sweetness to balance the grapefruit. Past an overpriced bowl of underwhelming guac lay the star of the starters: the tlayuda. A toasted tortilla is slathered with mashed sweet potatoes, a pumpkin-seed-–based salsa, brown butter, pomegranate seeds and melty quesillo cheese, making for a dish that hits all the notes: spicy, sweet, salty, cheesy, tangy and crunchy.
A few bites in, we received the joyous news that we would have the privilege of sitting down to complete our meal. Once seated, the masa madness continued with the just-sweet-enough chicken al pastor tacos and the smoky, addictive grilled maitake tacos, both bursting with just the right levels of heat and acid. However, a slightly bitter taste from the $7-per-taco price tag seemed to overpower both.
The main attraction was a large-format grilled branzino. Covered in yellow mole and served alongside crispy shards of fingerling potatoes smothered in a tangy herb sauce as well as (you guessed it) more tortillas, the whole dish offered a great juxtaposition of bold, wood-fired flavors and delicate, herbaceous ones.
Our gavage ended with thick slices of toasted pumpkin bread topped with sour apple jam to cut through the quenelle of velvety brown-butter ice cream, which was better than most offerings from the top NYC scoop shops. While I left this meal learning the lovely lesson of always double-checking my reservation, the silver lining was that my next visit to Oxomoco was already planned.