TravelNoise: Vida Verde, New York City
Let’s face it — New York is not the city for Mexican fare. If you’re a first-time U.S. visitor looking for a killer taco, we normally would tell you to head to L.A. But one restaurant has taken one for the team (the New York team, that is) and created praiseworthy elevated Mexican cuisine. So, I guess I’m saying…stay in New York, and check out Vida Verde.
Standing proudly in exciting Hell’s Kitchen, Vida Verde’s effortlessly sleek building looks right at home in the chaos and noise. Upon walking in, my guest and I felt an immediate change in vibe. Still sleek but cosy, the restaurant is covered in black and white chevron design. A green tile bar sweeps down the length of the restaurant while old-school fixtures and candle-lit tables maintain a casualness that made us want to sink into our chairs and stay a while.
A hostess showed us our seat and we took a look at the easy-to-follow menu — both traditional favourites like tableside guacamole were paired with modern takes on classics like the mushroom quesadillas, which were open-faced and deconstructed. Our smiling waitress suggested we start with a margarita ($14), to which we said, absolutely. Interestingly, you can order your margarita sweet, dry or “perfect,” which I’ve not yet seen offered at a Mexican restaurant. I took mine perfect while my guest tried dry, and when they came, on the rocks and with salt, we realized what a good margarita really is. Our waitress also suggested we try the tableside guacamole ($14), complete with pico de gallo, serrano peppers, tostadas and charred tortillas. We chose to have our guacamole fairly spicy, and when it arrived, we dug right in. The avocados were perfectly ripe, the spice level was on point and the housemade tortillas were a delicious accompaniment.
When we took another look at the menu, we knew we wanted to hit all the major dishes recommended by the staff. We decided to split a few small plates instead of going for separate mains, so we chose the mushroom quesadilla ($14), the seafood ceviche ($17) and toritos ($16).
The three dishes seemed like the perfect amount of food, and I was actually correct for once. The mushroom quesadilla, which were filled with Ajillo mushrooms, grilled cheese, masa corn and epazote, were beautifully plated and flavourful while the seafood ceviche, which was a fresh selection of shrimp, fish, squid, scallops, pico de gallo, avocado and cucumber, was juicy and bright and served with tostadas. The toritos, which are bacon-wrapped shrimp with charred tomato sauce, poblano, handmade tortillas and radish, were the most decadent dish of the night and perfectly crisped.
Because my guest and I were so smart about sharing plates, we were ready for dessert. Our choice: the tres leches cake with berries ($9), which was ooey-gooey and slathered in sauce. The berry compote added a sharp tang to the dish that we desperately needed after all the sweetness, and the dessert was an incredible ending to our meal.
We can’t promise that New York tacos are anywhere near Los Angeles tacos. What we can promise is that you can get great Mexican fare here, and you can get it at Vida Verde.
Address: 248 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019
Telephone Number: (646) 657-0565