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« Bites: New Jersey | Main | The Plaza (Hotel) Food Hall, by Todd English »
Tuesday
Sep072010

CLOSED: Re-visit: Dinner at Las Chicas Locas

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Atmosphere: dark, sexy
  • Attire: smart casual
  • Ideal for: small groups, 1x1, bar, small plates, al-fresco drinking/dining
  • Price: affordable; all items on dinner menu under $16 
  • Phone: 212-337-8301
  • Location: 160 W. 25th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues) / located within Four Points by Sheraton Hotel
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directionswww.hopstop.com/?city=newyork
  •  

    *All photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

    After learning that Las Chicas Locas, a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, re-vamped its menu and partnered with two-star Michelin chef, Christopher Lee (of Aureole), to oversee/develop its culinary operations, I decided that it was the perfect time for a return visit.  After all, it had been a little over one year since my last meal at Las Chicas Locas.

    Although it's located within Chelsea's Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, LCL (Las Chicas Locas) is a separate entity.  So if you're thinking that this restaurant is just another boring, half-ass attempt made by an international hotel chain, then leave your prejudices at the door.  Because from the moment you exit the lobby and enter LCL, you're transported away from the bright overhead lights, cheesy soft-rock "elevator music," and overly-friendly Four Points employees.  Think: your choice of lounge, table, or bar seating - dimly-lit, sexy atmosphere illuminated by twinkling votive candles - current pop tunes playing throughout - rustic Mexican furnishings meet chic urban aesthetics.

    Dinner at Las Chicas Locas: table scapeDinner at Las Chicas Locas: modern accents By the time my first "skinny" Watermelon Margarita arrived ("skinny" refers to the fact that the cocktail is simply made with tequila, watermelon, orange liqueur and agave nectar - no corn syrup, no refined sugar, etc.), so did my dinner guest, Megan.

    Dinner at Las Chicas Locas: "skinny" Watermelon Margarita. I'm sorry, but I think that this is probably one of the most attractive cocktail photos taken. Like, ever.Now, instead of going into great detail about each and every single dish that we ordered - which was almost, literally, the entire menu - I'm going to briefly describe each plate under its respective photograph (in chronological order):

      

    Guacamole for the Table Rich and buttery smashed avocado was seasoned with salt and topped with a mild in spice, yet robust in flavor, pico-de-gallo (chopped tomato, red onion and parsley - and a dash of olive oil and freshly-ground black pepper).  The vibrant green dip was accompanied by a basket of warm and salty tortilla chips, and two miniscule "cups" of house-made salsas.

    Mexican Cheese Fundido I can't tell you how thrilled and tickled I become every time I see "queso fundido" listed on a menu.  Served alongside flour tortilla triangles was a small iron skillet amply filled with a blend of melted cheeses (my guess would be a mix of cream cheese, goat cheese, and Chihuahua/asadero).  Crumbled chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage) and juilienned scallions topped the dip. Despite the fact that Megan and I wolfed down every last ounce, here is what I would change:   

    • While the scallions added a nice splash of color, I would instead use rajas (sauteed green chiles and onions) to make the dish more flavorful and authentic.  For a milder spice tolerance, sliced avocados could be substituted.
    • Instead of being cut in to triangles, the flour tortillas should be served whole/round.  Alternatively, corn tortillas would add a nice textural density against the creamy cheese.
    • I would have enjoyed an accompaniment of salsa, as I enjoy pairing the two dips.

    Grilled Prawn Skewers plump, de-veined prawns were basted in a sweet and spicy garlic-chile sauce before spending some quality time on the 'barbie. 

    Arroz Frito con Frijoles "fried rice with beans."  A bed of rice was liberally topped with black and red beans, zesty green chile sauce, and sour cream.  A fried egg, pico-de-gallo (chopped tomato, red onion and parsley - and a dash of olive oil and freshly-ground black pepper) and julienned scallions crowned the dish.  Though warm and comforting, I found the abundance of ingredients to be a bit overwhelming, especially with the addition of the fried egg. 

    I like my rice separate from my beans, and my fried eggs accompanied by buttered, sourdough toast.  And, while I'm at it, a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice, too. 

    Papas Bravas cubed "home fries" or "breakfast potatoes" - topped with sour cream and queso-fresco - were plated over a shallow pool of smoked-paprika sauce which, honestly, tasted more akin to canned red-enchilada sauce.  My first observations were, "Wait, aren't 'Papas Bravas' Spanish in origin? ... So this is what restaurants do with leftover breakfast potatoes!"

    Carne Asada Quesadilla for a mere $11, this quesadilla has the power and protein to satiate you from breakfast to dinner.  Sandwiched between two grilled flour tortillas was an ample schmear of shredded beef/carne asada.  Smoky red-chile sauce (I have a feeling that it was the same sauce, coined "Smoked Paprika," that was used in the "Papas Bravas" dish), drizzled sour cream, asadero cheese, and yet another fried egg topped the quesadilla.

    Chicken Enchiladas call me a "traditionalist," but I simply could not get past the chopped mango, pico-de-gallo, random jalapeno slice, and two lime-wedges that came either on top of, or as a garnish for, this dish.  All of that aside, the enchiladas, themselves, were quite tasty.  The smoky red-chile sauce (I have a feeling that it was the same sauce used in both the quesadilla and the "Papas Bravas" dish, coined "Smoked Paprika") paired nicely with the perfectly-moist, shredded chicken and blue-corn tortillas.

    "Las Chicas Locas" Trio of Tacos of all of the larger dishes that Megan and I ordered, this was probably my favorite because of its variety and authenticity.  The taco trio included:

    • Shredded pork "carnitas" with cilantro and roasted pineapple 
    • Crispy, breaded white fish with slaw, corn, and chipotle-sour-cream
    • Chopped, grilled steak with pico-de-gallo and lime-infused sour cream

    Mexican Chocolate Chili Cake your basic "molten chocolate cake," with the exception of a hint of spice folded in to the batter - served alongside dulce-de-leche (caramel) ice cream, caramel sauce, and granola.

    Caramel Flan with Seasonal Fruit now this dessert was something to write home about: a pool of rich, watery caramel sauce was topped with the creamiest, most delicious individual portion of flan that, I'm willing to bet, I've ever had. 

    Pairing each bite with a segment of the tart berries added a nice textural contrast to the otherwise soft custard.    

    ~

    Conclusion I think that LCL needs to re-evaluate whether or not it should classify itself as a "Mexican" restaurant.  Perhaps I'm too critical when it comes to the cuisine of my childhood, but I found many of the dishes to be more "Latin/Caribbean...Spanish" influenced than "Mexican."  There is nothing negative, per se, about this observation, except for the fact that - once again - I find the restaurant's cuisine classification to be slightly misleading.  That, or does being a Texas expat make me one hell of an unfair judge?  Let's just assume the latter, shall we?   

    LCL does excel in its creative cocktail menu and lighter, "snackier" food items. 

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