As we were out and about in the Upper East Side, it fell to me to pick a place for us to go for dinner. Not quite sure how the guy that’s not from New York got that task, but I was up for it. I consulted my handy New York wishlist on Urbanspoon (which I realized is out of date), and found a couple places nearby. But, given we had a group of 8 with varying tastes, I opted for Mexican ask it offers a lot of variety. This meant Cascabel Taqueria.
Getting to dinner ended up being a bigger ordeal than I had anticipated. We started by calling and asking if we could make, or needed to make a reservation. While we were told they didn’t take reservations, they weren’t busy and shouldn’t have problem accommodating our group. We then called again before we left the bar we were at and were reassured again. When we arrived 20 minutes later, the story was different. They had gotten busy, and we were told that we wouldn’t be able to get a seat until about 10:30. It was before 8. We ended up calling other places in the area before we finally decided its a group that size, we were just going to have to wait. So it was off for more drinks.
When we finally sat down for dinner, there was a bit of a sour taste in our mouth from the seating debacle. But that sourness was quickly erased; washed out by a delicious, fresh made margarita. The flavor was nice and bright with fresh lime and a simple syrup with enough but not too much tequila.
A quinoa salad further improved the night. It wasn’t anything super unique or overdone, but was just good. The quinoa was a bit nutty and balanced with some avocado, cheese and cilantro with hazelnut for a textural crunch. It was the perfect starter to get something in my stomach to start soaking up all the liquid.
From there, it was on to the tacos. My choice for the evening was a delightful carnitas taco…slow roasted Berkshire pork with an acidic crunch from pickled red onion, and a tiny amount of heat from the roasted chile de arbol sauce. The flavors melded together wonderfully and the two tacos (in handmade corn tortillas of course) were the perfect amount to leave me feeling full with just enough room for one more drink and a couple bites of cheesecake (that we’d been carrying around all night fromTwo Little Red Hens).
As good as the tacos were, I think Ashley’s dish may have won the night. The Tilapia Vera Cruz, a perfectly broiled piece of fish with tomato, oregano, golden raisins, caper berry, garlic, celery leaf, red and green olives, and lemon stole the show. Each bite blended sweet, salty and acidic in a subtle way that complimented without overwhelming. Even the olives, which I usually find off-putting, we’re mild enough that I could enjoy the texture the offered the dish.
It was frustrating waiting until 10 to eat, especially with the way the host acted. But in the end we were glad we stuck it out. Not only did we get that extra time with each other, but we got a fantastic meal that left everyone happy and smiling.
Final Verdict – 4.5 Stars