Today's Groupon gets you $50 worth of fine Mexican drinks and dishes for $20 at Crema Restaurante, the south-of-the-border Chelsea specialist with a "palpable, laudable regard for Mexican cuisine," according to The New York Times. The New Yorker, Time Out New York, Zagat, and New York magazine also gave Crema glowing reviews for its superbly executed Mexican dishes with creative twists and "impeccable judgment calls."
The Times recommends Crema's corn soup, soft steak tacos (that "typified Crema's virtues"), queso flameado ("an extraordinary version of an ordinary dish"), green salad with roasted nuts, chicken flautas ("vibrant flourishes"), and Chilean sea bass ("silken and delicate"). The menu has traditional food from Mexico with refined French presentation. The New Yorker's Leo Carey recommends the mole-inspired chocolate cake with a bloom of chili that lights your mouth on fire and makes you beg for mercy or more cake. Everyone agrees that Crema's drinks make the meal; try more than 30 types of tequilas or cocktails such as the caipirinha fresa, made from cachaça, lime, mint, and fresh strawberries.
Chef Julieta Ballesteros cooked at Mexicana Mama in the West Village before she opened Crema. Trained at the French Culinary Institute, her style has roots in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. New York magazine calls her a "superwoman," and The New York Times says she's "a chef to watch."
Crema's dining room is a blaze of warmth, with yellows, oranges, reds, and greens of cacti and yucca and paintings hung on the stucco-like walls. Service is always friendly, whether you're swigging mojitos at the bar or drooling with your mouth agape, hoping to catch a breeze to cool down the fiery burn of a slice of chocolate cake.
- Dessert draws inspiration from the flavor of mole sauce, giving a dramatic twist to that ubiquitous restaurant offering the warm chocolate cake. Each bite should be savored: precisely twenty seconds after hitting the tongue, the rich chocolate taste gives way to an increasingly intense bloom of chili. After another twenty seconds, the heat fades and you can take a second bite. Those foolish enough to wolf their cake down all at once can be seen sipping water or letting their mouths hang open. - Leo Carey, The New Yorker
- The elaborate art and architecture of the dish, which also includes an inky swish of chili paste along one edge of the plate and a verdant swish of cilantro and lime emulsion along another, boldly announce Ms. Ballesteros's desire to take Mexican cooking in the kind of nuanced directions that too few Mexican restaurants here do. That's great news, and it's delivered in this dish with a mingling of assertive flavors and rich textures that make you swoon. – Frank Bruni, The New York Times
- Julieta Ballesteros has graduated from teeny Mexicana Mama in the village to a narrow earth-toned spot of her own. There she is in the open kitchen, a small superwoman with a couple of slow-moving sidekicks watching every move, dishing up stylish plates of refined cocina Mexicana. Ribbons of hanger steak fill her taquitos, painted with a tomato-chorizo paste and the Mexican cream that gives this spot its name. The pleasant afterburn of impeccably cooked scallops with avocado and small corn tostados sets off irrepressible moans of pleasure. All of us are equally taken by a raucous family of textures in a salad with peanut guajillo vinaigrette. – Gael Greene, New York magazine
- CREMA's talented chef/owner prepares refined authentic Mexican food that plays softly on the palate rather than sandbagging the mouth with mega-hot concoctions that aim to raise beer and margaria consumption. Subtlety, execution and presentation are the hallmarks. – kaibab1, Citysearch
- This high end Mexican restaurant is wonderful. You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, including the drink specials. – Sammy B., Yelp
- I've been going since it first opened and I've yet to have a bad meal or dining experience. It's so difficult to find authentic and good Mexican food in this city, but Crema serves it up with a twist...The drinks are fantastic, as well. – Oscar G., Yelp
Benedict Arnold: A Fantastic Surprise
Reviewers rave about Crema's spicy chocolate cake that surprises the tongue with a hint of chili; one called the shocking flavor combination "the greatest surprise since the treason of Benedict Arnold."
Arnold stunned our not-yet-formed nation by abandoning his post as a Revolutionary War general to open a chicken restaurant in his native Connecticut. The traitorous general was known for his restaurant's groundbreaking slogan: Very Good Chicken. Though this seems cliché to modern slogan-audiences, it marked the first time in history that the words very and good were used in immediate succession. Today, Benedict Arnold is fondly remembered as both a horrible traitor and the father of a descriptive turn of phrase.
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