Under Gerardo Gonzalez, El Rey emerged as one of the chicest gathering hubs on the Lower East Side; an area already deluged with impossibly hip people (case in point — it made a cameo appearance on an episode of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None”). So acolytes who’ve sorely missed his breezy, healthy Cal-Mex fare since his departure last April would be well advised to follow Gonzalez to Chinatown, where he recently resurfaced with a brand new project called Lalo.
It’s similar in DNA to El Rey in that it’s intended to be a day-to-night diner; eventually expanding to include $15 dollar set lunches. As opposed to the 15-seat El Rey, however, where most of the meals are prepared on hot plates, Lalo has the luxury of a triple-sized space and legitimate kitchen, which means Gonzalez can really go for broke with the expansive dinner menu.
Though he still uses Mexican flavors as an anchor, dishes are very much globally inspired, including snacks like Shishitos en Nogada (which swaps out ample, stuffed poblanos for skinny, mild Asian peppers tossed in pomegranate reduction, in a play on the traditional holiday dish). Vegetables remain very much a strong suit, with a sizable part of the menu devoted to items like Bulgarian Feta bathed in green mole, Pan con Tomatillo topped with tangy tomatoes, and Roasted Yams enlivened with tahini and cured tuna, but meat and seafood is given plenty of opportunity to shine — concoctions like Braised Charred Octopus over hominy and Coconut Sable Chowder are ideal answers to the quickly cooling weather, and large groups will clamor for Whole Chicken Asado slathered with green pineapple hot sauce, or Carnitas Tacos prepared por la familia; feeding three to four people at a time.
So gather a handful of your prettiest, most fashionable friends, and hightail it over to Lalo.
104 Bayard St