For those of you who have been around here for a while, you're not only aware of my obsession with Mexican food, but are all too familiar with my arduous attempts at finding decent representations of the cuisine here in NYC...
Last Sunday, my friend, Shelley, and I trotted over to Brooklyn to check out Citrico, a new-ish Mexican joint in Prospect Heights, for brunch. Upon our 11AM arrival (What? We wanted to beat the crowds.), we had the entire intimate restaurant to ourselves (Come noon, that would soon change.). Bright and inviting, the small, yet fully functional space was adorned with turquoise and pastel-colored wooden tables, black and white family(?) photos, Mexican tchotchkes, and an energetic open kitchen.
We plopped down and immediately ordered a round of cocktails. While Shelley opted for the traditional margarita, I chose the more exotic "Guavazcal," a mezcal concoction married with guava and lime juices, plus ginger beer and served on-the-rocks. The mason jar in which it was poured was rimmed with spicy Tajin. While my beverage may have been more appealing to the eye (Maybe it was the ginger beer that threw me off?), I much preferred Shelley's excellently-crafted authentic margarita.
Between sips of our cocktails - and prior to placing our meal order - we noshed on a gratis bowl of what one of the owners coined as "chicharrones." However, these crunchy rings had no trace of meat/poultry. Addictive, crispy, and sprinkled with a zesty spice powder, Shelley and I managed to inhale our entire bowl within seconds.
Forgoing guacamole, which seems to be the quintessential 'first order' for every Yankee at a Mexican restaurant, we opted for the house-made chips and quartet of salsas, including pico de gallo, tomatillo, guajillo, and chile de arbol. While I'm not a big tomatillo fan (it always seems to have a weird gelatinous consistency), the other three salsas were dynamite; my favorite being the chile de arbol with it's smooth, creamy texture and garlicky finish. The chips were still warm from the fryer and seasoned with the perfect amount of salt.
In a dual effort to sample as much of the menu as we could, Shelley and I chose to split three entrees: Panqueques, Huevos Divorciados, and the Huitlacoche Quesadilla. Oh, and a bowl of Mexican rice. God, what fatties!
When this plate of perfectly cooked (a fluffy interior with that crunchy, buttery exterior rim), golden brown pancakes arrived, I was a bit anxious. Why? Because, look at all of that fruit (see photo, below)! There was so much of it, in fact, that we couldn't even see the top of the 'cakes. "Oh, for crissakes," I exclaimed, "let me go ahead and scoot all of this crap off to the side." Shelley giggled and watched as I moved the 'healthy bits' off to a lonely corner of the plate before dousing the real stuff in the accompanying tequila-infused cajeta sauce/syrup.
Having grown up with cajeta in our kitchens, we both appreciated the Mexican influence on this traditionally American dish. I will warn you, though, the tequila-infusion is NOT for the faint of heart or for the alcohol intolerant!
To be fair to both sides, if you will, I played the role of hungry mediator and sampled both parties of the 'culinary divorce' at play on my plate: Bordered by a helping of black beans were two lightly-fried corn tortillas - arranged side-by-side - each respectively topped with a sunny side-up egg. Salsa rojo crowned one of the eggs, while salsa verde smothered the other.
The Divorciados reminded me a lot of huevos rancheros, save for the fact that this version was finished with two salsas, not just one.
Homemade corn tortillas were lathered with queso blanco, freshly-shucked corn kernels, and a generous amount of huitlacoche before being griddled to perfection. Drizzled crema, altocumulus-like clouds of queso fresco, and a nest of bright green shredded iceberg completed the dish.
It's rare to find an authentic version of Mexican rice in NYC. Most often, I'm either served plain white or some deplorable attempt where the kernels are too long, the color is baby chick-yellow, and the seasoning is either nonexistent or way off. Citrico, however, nails it: The kernels are short, the broth has notes of tomato, garlic, and chicken stock, the color is spot-on, and there are proper "clumps" dispersed throughout (my favorite).
Dessert? Not after all of that comida! We did, however, save room for one last tequila cocktail.
*While it's not on the drink menu, if you're craving something that's both sweet and savory with a fiery finish, just ask for the spicy margarita. It may have been our favorite beverage of the three that we enjoyed!
Shelley and I could not have been more pleased with our brunch, notably in terms of its authenticity (from the handmade corn tortillas and salsas to the cajeta, Mexican rice, and legit tequila/mezcal cocktails). So much so, that I am co-hosting a brunch there in a few weekends for my Mexican Food Lovers' Meetup Group!
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle