Dinner at Crema Restaurante, 9/11/08
Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 1:04PM
The Lady Who Lunches in Restaurant reviews

Dear Crema,

I was really looking forward to dining with you last Thursday evening, especially after reading that your chef/owner, Julieta Ballesteros, hails from Monterrey, Mexico. As a native Texan who was raised on menudo and chilaquiles, I constantly find myself on a quest for authentic Mexican restaurants worthy of nostalgic childhood memories here in Yankee territory.

When I arrived at Crema for my 7 p.m. reservation, I was pleasantly surprised to find that your host allowed me to be seated before Megan, my dinner date, arrived (as this is so uncommon in New York).

Not a moment after I placed my napkin in my lap, the server arrived and took my drink order. "Listen, I had a rough night and have been nursing an evil hangover all day. Can you recommend a beverage sans alcohol? Do you have homemade lemonade, perhaps?" I asked. To my delight, the server not only said that your restaurant did have homemade lemonade, but she asked me if I'd like it customized with a blended fruit of my choice!

As my homemade raspberry-lemonade arrived, so did my fellow dining companion, Megan. Before catching up on our adventurous summers, Megan and I discussed how lovely your restaurant's interior space is. Unlike most Mexican spots in the city, Crema felt much softer, warmer and sophisticated.

When our server returned with Megan's glass of red sangria, we proceeded to order our entrees, both choosing the Tacos de Carne Asada Clasica. I also had to ask our server for chips and salsa (which is something that should never have to be questioned at a Mexican restaurant), where she then asked whether we preferred our salsa "medium" or "spicy."

Megan and I loved how your homemade tortilla chips arrived in an oversize wrought-iron "frites" (French fries) cone, and that the "medium" spiced salsa we ordered had clearly just been pureed prior to table service. I don't think I've had a better "chips and salsa" combo in New York! The Tacos de Carne Asada Clasica looked vaguely authentic, arriving on 3" diameter corn tortillas, topped with perfectly cooked (though slightly gristly) steak, sliced avocado and garnished with a lime wedge, a spoonful of pico de gallo and Mexican rice (Megan and I both subbed the "cowboy beans" for rice). Unfortunately, my meal was interrupted when the table next to ours was seated. Every time the robust gentleman to my left opened his mouth to speak, I was nearly overcome by whiffs of a severely buzz-killing case of halitosis (clinical bad breath). Thankfully, I was able to eat half of my dinner prior to his arrival.

Megan and I had a lovely experience at your restaurant until our bill arrived. Was this man's halitosis so heinous that I was beginning to hallucinate, or was there really an $8 charge on our tab for chips and salsa? After I flagged our server down in horror, I was shocked when she confirmed that this was not a mistake. How in the hell can you, a Mexican restaurant, charge your customers for this item...Let alone $8? I'm truly baffled, disappointed, yet sadly, not surprised. I must remember that this is New York City, after all, but that still doesn't stop me from getting pissed off. God knows you'd be the laughing stock if you ever tried to charge folks in Texas for chips and salsa!

Broke and homesick,
The Lunch Belle

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.