Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All You Can Eat Tacos at Mercadito Grove (food)

Sometimes I get a craving to eat a lot of food. Not the refined, fine dining, high-end stuff, but just good food and lots of it. The best way to achieve this in NYC without going broke is to look for all you can eat (AYCE) deals. One such deal that I came across in my research was the AYCE tacos at two of the Mercadito branches in NYC. For $23 per person, you get all you can eat tacos of 10 different varieties. The deal is all night long on Sundays and Mondays while late night only on all other nights, so I brought along a few friends this past Monday to Mercadito Grove (Grove St/7th Ave) to try and sample everything on offer. Among the diners was KE from Donuts4Dinner, who took all the photos in this post.

Because AYCE just isn't enough for us serious eaters, one of us decided to order the ceviche sampler as well. The ceviches were interesting. Rather than just focus on citrus, they were accented with other fruit flavors which lent a sweeter taste. There was mahi-mahi with orange, shrimp with pineapple, and scallops that tasted of strawberry. While I personally wouldn't order them again, they definitely took an old favorite and reinvented some of the flavor profiles. Everyone had a different favorite of the three.

Then the tacos began. Tacos normally come four to an order, but we had five people and they were nice enough to make five to an order for us so we could sample everything easily. There were ten varieties on our menu, but they did not have the Pastor kind, so we had no pork that night. The restaurant is very small and the food took quite a while to come out initially when the place was full. As we kept eating and the place got emptier, tacos came out faster, hotter, and tastier. One thing that was consistent throughout was that the corn tortillas were very good.

MOLE Chicken, sweet plantain, crema fresca, mole poblano sauce. This was pretty good. Not the best mole you'll have, but the depth of flavor was definitely there. The sweet plantains were a nice touch, contrasting all the other flavors of the mole sauce.

CAMARON Shrimp, roasted garlic, chipotle mojo, avocado. This was another good combination. The shrimp had a nice fresh texture while the chipotle mojo had a definite spiciness to it. The avocado was perfect here balancing both the textures with its creaminess and the flavors by cooling off some of that heat.

PESCADO Sautéed tilapia, grilled corn, huitlacoche, manchego cheese, tomatillo salsa. The fish was pretty good if you like tilapia. However, the flavor of the tilapia was very strong, and the muddy fish was pretty much all I could taste.

CARNE Rosemary marinated organic skirt steak, potato-poblano-cactus fundido, avocado crema. This was the consensus winner of the night. The steak was good with its simple marinade and the crispy potatoes on top made for a terrific bite texturally.

ESTILO BAJA Beer battered mahi mahi, mexican style coleslaw, chipotle aioli. Very good fish tacos. The fish was still hot and the batter very crisp, which was key.

Grilled red snapper with some pepper-based sauce. This item is different from the current online menu. The fish itself was very good and well-cooked. The sauce, however, was one-note and it really just tasted of peppers. I think this tied with the tilapia as the group's least favorite of the proteins.

RAJAS Black bean hash, rajas poblanas, crema fresca, cilantro, onion, chile ancho salsa. I personally found the flavor combinations very interesting, but the consensus was that it was too soupy and failed texturally.

CALABACITAS Grilled zucchini, black bean hash, cactus pico, tomatillo salsa. One of our group felt that this was on the bland side and requested hot sauce. Another felt that as a meat eater, this was decent for something that was all vegetables. I'm somewhere in the middle, sharing a little of both those sentiments.

There was one more taco that I don't seem to have a picture of. POLLO Grilled chicken, cactus salad, tomatillo salsa, avocado. While the mole was focused on the sauce, the accompaniments on this chicken taco had a fresher flavor and allowed the grilled chicken to come through.

Overall, it was a very good deal if you can eat a lot. As the crowd dissipated, the food came out hot, fast, and fresh. We probably ended up with a total of about 65 tacos among the 5 of us, and I personally probably ate at least 15. Our favorites were the steak, shrimp, both chickens, and the fried fish. Service was nice and friendly, although the food came out very slowly at the beginning when the place was packed. I think it's definitely a good time and I'd recommend it for a sizeable group of eaters with mixed palates. There's also plenty of outdoor seating for those into that. Actually, there may even be more seats outside than inside the restaurant.

Like I said before, AYCE just isn't enough for us serious eaters, so a couple of us walked around in search of dessert, and found Grom Gelato on Bleecker and Carmine. This cup was KE's and featured vanilla gelato and limone sorbet.

Mine featured a scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of the crema di grom, an interesting combination of egg cream, corn biscuit bits, and chocolate chip. I didn't get much of a corn flavor from the biscuit bits, but loved the added texture component.

1 comment :

donuts4dinner said...

Bleh! It's so much worse seeing my poorly-lit photos on someone's else's blog.

Would you believe that was my first time having ceviche? (You probably would, actually.) I somehow got it in my head that it was served in an oyster shell or on a spoon and was a single bite. The fact that it came in bowls along with chips totally blew my mind.

I would go again any time!