The Kitchen Table at Empellón Cocina got off to a rocky start as the early seating and supposedly shorter tasting went overtime and delayed our reservation 30 minutes. Chef Alex Stupak was in the house though, as you could see him talking with the table for 4 that faces the kitchen in the back of the restaurant, so it didn’t seem so bad to have time to look over the main restaurant’s menu. (I’ve included a photo of the front end’s menu as it looks good enough to come back for, none of it is part of the tasting menu.) Then when we finally get to take our seats, Chef greets us and promptly disappears for the rest of the evening.
I understand there were some VIPs in the early group but it still is an odd choice to spend overtime with the less expensive grouping and abandon your main show. Nevertheless we were left in a most capable chef’s hands for the evening along with a personable and friendly beverage manager, whose motto was “no glass goes empty” – so we got along great. We did chose the pairings as the menu has some courses that would be difficult to pair a wine with and the pairings include tequila, mezcal, pilsner and wines.
We started with a mackerel sushi that had a good burn to it and left a good taste. It paired particularly well with tequila.
The turnip is actually served on a white plate that has been painted with chilmole then dried. The chilmole is rehydrated when the moist vegetables get on it. The idea is to scrape some off and mix it in with the turnips. A mild dish but fun to play with.
Natas is a clotted cream that was served with fresh chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a nicely spicy dish that was simple but wonderful.
The gordita was filled with a white gooey cheese with a really crisp exterior. It was tasty but the corn essence was milder than I expected.
The avocado and crab was seasoned with chili and lime. It had a nice crunch but the avocado and crab were both mildly flavored.
The trout flauta with roe and green sauce was nice with a pleasant aftertaste.
The oyster was topped with corn which overshadowed the taste of the oyster, however I really enjoyed the burst of corn flavor.
The chicken wing was preceded with a passing of crispy grasshoppers. They are a grassy taste but very crisp. They were then worked into a salsa that topped the boneless chicken wing, which was also topped with guacamole. A fun combination.
The sweetbread sandwich was really good. No one taste stood out, it all just blended together nicely.
The scotch egg was a fried quail egg with a spicy mayo that was very tasty.
Salsa was a compilation of choices by the 4 of us at the table. We each picked some ingredients from a range of choices offered and then they were worked together and served with crispy corn chips. We chose roast garlic, roast onion, roasted tomatillo, lime to name a few. It turned our somewhat spicy but not as hot as I expected based on our choices.
The quesadilla was stuffed with pork belly and cheese and was slightly spicy and tasty.
Next the pineapple that had been roasting on a spit in front of us was sliced and served. It had been basted with pork fat and spices. It was good.
The first dessert was sorbet of mole and sesame served on toasted sesame. It was really smooth and sweet.
Next was poblano and raspberry. A mild but good combination.
The chocolate was made up of a number of average components some of which made some unpleasant combinations. This one didn’t sing.
It was followed with a rhubarb tres leches that was quite good.
We finished with a small watermelon that had been injected with mezcal. A fun idea but in my book it didn’t work as the flavors didn’t blend that well.