Please note that this meal occurred in February 2015.
The title pretty much says it all, but I think it's more reflective of the hype that Cosme gets than anything else. The hype is understandable. The named celebrity chef, Enrique Olvera, is arguably the top chef in Mexico and has a restaurant ranked 16th in the latest World's Best Restaurant rankings. The night we went, the New York Times had just awarded them 3 stars. But even with chef Olvera in the house that night celebrating the review, there were some things that just seemed to be missing.
The place is trendy. No doubt about it. One of our fellow diners believes she spotted Isaac Mizrahi. And while the music was acceptable during prime dinner time, it definitely turned into a very clubby vibe by about 11pm. And compared to those types of MePa restaurants, Cosme is indeed excellent. But for a restaurant that prides itself on its food and hiding the guacamole in a small corner of the menu, it wasn't quite there yet.
Everything involving corn was phenomenal. This includes all the tortillas and tostadas, as well as the purple corn chileatole served with the octopus cocktail, and the signature husk meringue dessert. Some items on the menu were more of the "check things off the list" variety, such as the seafood stuffed avocado or the uni tostada (uni! bone marrow!), which I liked far less than the mussel tostada which had a great depth of flavor. When I think of Mexican or Mexican-inspired food, I think of either freshness or depth of flavor. While freshness of flavor was evident in some of the dishes such as the scallop and the excellent cobia al pastor, none of the dishes really presented a depth and complexity of flavor except for the pozole. This was especially disappointing in regard to the enfrijolada. In terms of food, everything overall was good. And when I say everything, I mean literally almost everything, as the 6 of us ordered everything on the menu except for 4 items.
Service was friendly and prompt. And like I already mentioned, that is excellent for a trendy, busy NYC restaurant considering the large number of horrible waitstaff in the city filled with actor/singer wannabes. But for a critically acclaimed, sophisticated, serious restaurant, that's not enough. We had already mentioned that we were ordering practically the entire menu to share. The first miscue was when the server told us that the hamachi would not be large enough to share, and recommended we get two orders. We decided to get one order first and see how it turned out. It turned out that there were 5 slices of fish for the 6 of us. You're telling me we couldn't just pay for that one extra slice so that everyone could have one? Don't bullshit me with that everything is pre-portioned crap. The second miscue was when they brought our duck carnitas (meant to serve two) along with the accompanying basket of tortillas. Two tortillas. Seriously?
What made this worse was that these were things that should have had two opportunities to have been corrected before they got to the table. Not only should the server communicate with the kitchen, but a diligent world class chef should notice these things and question what goes out. "Two tortillas for a 6-top?" And yet they said Olvera was in the kitchen that night, although I don't know if he was manning the pass.
Yes, the portions are small and the prices add up quickly. That has pretty much been mentioned on most of the reviews out there. But considering we ordered almost the entire menu, including all the desserts (but only one of the main entrees), the price for one person including tax and tip without alcohol was a very reasonable $100. So no arguments there, although I doubt diners can achieve those economies of scale without a group of 6.
It's a good restaurant with good food. If a friend wanted to go to a trendy restaurant and we ended up there, I wouldn't be disappointed. But it's just way overhyped by the food media. This is not a restaurant that will change how NYers view Mexican food. It's not exactly a cash grab, but I doubt one would really consider it an extension of Pujol, Olvera's acclaimed restaurant in Mexico.
Photos and descriptions:
UNI TOSTADA; AVOCADO, BONE MARROW SALSA, CUCUMBER $17
MUSSEL TOSTADA; RUSSIAN SALAD, CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE $14
OCTOPUS COCKTAIL; PURPLE OCCIDENTAL CORN CHILEATOLE, CHARRED AVOCADO, RED ONION $26
SCALLOP AGUACHILE; POACHED JICAMA, FRESH WASABI-CUCUMBER-LIME $20
SMOKED RAW SEPIA; SALSA MEXICANA, AVOCADO $19
COBIA AL PASTOR; PINEAPPLE PUREE, CILANTRO $23
ENFRIJOLADA; RICOTTA, HOJA SANTA, CREME FRAICHE, ONION $19
EGGPLANT TAMAL; FRESH RICOTTA $14
NIXTAMALIZED CARROT, CINNAMON CAKE, CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM $14
CHOCOLATE GANACHE, MEZCAL, BLOOD ORANGE, BEET SORBET $14
BRIOCHE, PERSIMMON, RICOTTA, FRESH PEANUT BUTTER $14
LEMON CAKE, GRAPEFRUIT, QUINCE SORBET $12