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Los Dados



73 Gansevoort St., near Washington St. (646) 810-7290
Hours: Dinner, Sun.-Thurs., 5:30-11 p.m., Fri. & Sat., 5:30-midnight
CUISINE  Regional Mexican
VIBE  Dimly lit, cavernous space
OCCASION  Festive group dinner, night out
DON’T-MISS DISH  Grilled shrimp & Yucatan pork achiote tamal.
PRICE  Appetizers, $7-$17; entrees, $13-$19; desserts, $7-$10.
RESERVATIONS  Recommended.

Baskets of tortilla chips and kitschy Mexican shrines might be the last thing you would expect from the Meatpacking District, especially from David Rabin and Will Regan, the pair responsible for such exclusive clubs as Double Seven and Lotus.

no clipboard-wielding hostess or velvet rope stands between you and the
entrance of Los Dados, the district’s first Mexican eatery. Parties and
clusters of strangers congregate over Margaritas along a communal table
in a dimly lit dining room.

Regan and Rabin have enlisted chef Sue Torres
to execute “Mexican home cooking.” Having earned respect for her sharp
regional cooking at Suenos and Rocking Horse Cafe, Torres delivers a
comfort-food menu with an authentic selection of tacos, enchiladas,
quesadillas and tamales.

But this is Meatpacking Mexican, overpriced plates in designer sizes.

inflation translates to an $8 guacamole appetizer – a meager portion
that prompted my companion to order another. “We can’t share this,” she
declared, though we were grateful for the complimentary tortilla chips
– salty, addictively crunchy, still warm – as well as two peppy
homemade salsas.

Mini-beef-tacos are anything but small on
flavor. Soft tortillas are stuffed with smoky beef, finely capped off
with queso fresco and mildly spiced pico de gallo. Coriander-crusted
tuna tostadas arrive neatly layered with a feisty pineapple salsa and a
cooling smear of guacamole.

Tilapia Veracruzana makes a
commendable appearance: pan-seared and strewn with garlic, capers and
green olives atop a white bean puree. On my first visit, the seafood of
choice was skate, a dry and obstinate platform for such a heady mix of
seasonings. Upon successive returns, Torres had smartly switched out
the skate for a moist, rewarding tilapia.

She has a wicked way with tamales. The best was a Yucatan
pork achiote tamal: ground corn laced with supple strands of pork and
lush crema that comes wrapped in a banana leaf. Accompanied by grilled
shrimp, heated with ancho chili sauce, the dish bites back practically
on cue.

The menu hits as many low marks as it does high ones.
Shrimp ceviche was overboiled in a thick muck that recalled canned
tomato sauce. Bland halibut tacos were utterly forgettable; beef
enchiladas encased dried-out shreds of beef; and chicken quesadillas
were overwhelmed by chipotle and under-serviced by gooey cheese.

dessert, the only way to go out is the churros, authentic, crispy
doughnuts in a puddle of chili-spiked chocolate sauce. Los Dados
translates literally as “the dice.” Which is convenient, considering
the uneven kitchen yields a gamble – you never know what you can expect.

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl
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