Empellon NYC: Chef Alex Stupak’s New Mexican Restaurant
Chef Alex Stupak was partially responsible for one of our all-time favorite New York City meals, a birthday celebration at the three-starred wd-50 on Clinton Street. At the time Stupak was wd-50's pastry chef, and his creations, which ended a spectacular meal, were as gorgeous, unique, and delicious as our companion. Now Alex Stupak has his own place, Empellon restaurant (it translates, basically, to "shove") on a bustling West Village corner. And though Stupak surprised nearly everyone by (somewhat) eschewing desserts and opening a full-blown Mexican restaurant ("it's what I like to eat", he explains), we were more than a little excited to see what the man would do with a taco.
Anyway, we've only been to Empellon NYC once, on opening night early this week, but wanted to get the word out quickly, before the hordes descend (and descend they should): Empellon is an excellent Mexican restaurant, a pleasant, lively, and friendly place serving food filled with confidence, intrigue, and big, balanced flavors. We started in the Mariscos section, and were rewarded with a big bowl of chilled cephalopod, the octopus succulent and sweet with sesame, paired with soft, bitter parsnips and smoky chipolte. And if you want to add some heat, spoon on the terrific arbol chili salsa that arrives at your table and stays there throughout the proceedings.
The Empellon taco menu has about eight equally tempting Mexican options (out of eight), but in the end we went for la lengua: three soft flour tortillas piled with beer-braised, super-tender tongue, contrasted with chewy pieces of pork, onion, farmer cheese, and cilantro. For course three–and at an Alex Stupak restaurant, you kind of have to try the dessert–we wolfed a huge hunk of Tres Leches cake with mango. This was more cakey and less sticky-sweet than the tres leches we've had elsewhere, but it's definitely a satisfying, grown-up way to end an outstanding meal.
Alex Stupak's Empellon Details
Alex Stupak's Mexican restaurant Empellon in NYC is located on the corner of West 4th and West 10th Streets, right near 7th Avenue. Empellon has a spacious bar area up front with plenty of comfortably-spaced tables (and one big window banquette), and an attractive dining room in the back. Empellon is open every night from 5:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight. Check out the opening night Empellon menu.