Julieta Ballesteros is one of the most accomplished Mexican chefs in NYC, having helped open Mexicana Mama back in 1998, and gone on to launch Crema, Los Feliz and La Loteria besides. But while she’s considered a master of flavors from her hometown of Monterrey, she’s also known for infusing globally-inspired influences throughout her cooking, as with her 2012 project, China Latina.
Her newest West Village establishment, Tavo (slang for a cool, well-to-do Mexican guy) is much in this vein — paying homage to signature dishes of Monterrey, Mexico, while reflecting Ballesteros’ frequent travels throughout the world. Even the interiors juxtapose traditional and modern, inspired by the Green Mountains at the foot of Sierra Madre Oriental; you’ll find emerald highlights and earthy coppers evoking the natural landscape, while industrial accents reflect the cosmopolitan city sprawled just below.
Which means on the menu, you won’t come across anything that’s strictly Mexican, or even Latin, Chinese or French. Instead, ingredients are playfully interwoven, to create one-of-a-kind constructs like Baby Corn Fries; essentially mini elote with a panko crust, dragged through aioli spiked with chile de arbol. There are also bamboo-steamed Shumai, padded with oily, spicy chorizo, Shrimp Chow Fun, dusted with that musky fungus, huitlachoche, and French Rack of Lamb with pistachio pesto, swathed in dark chocolate-habanero mole. And while there’s a requisite burger available (an everything but the kitchen sink type, topped with avocado and foie gras), the Cuban Lasagna could well emerge as the popular default order; featuring layers of pulled pork and plantains bound by cheeses, and speckled with pickled onions and crunchy chicharrones.
To be sure, the fare at Tavo isn’t anywhere as traditional as Mexicana Mama’s or elegant as Crema’s, but it’s hard not to be wooed by Ballestero’s irreverent sense of whimsy and fun.
615 Hudson St