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Centrico Revisited


"'How am I doing, Mom?' I asked my mother when she stopped by the other night.

 "'Son, you're improving,' she said.

"That was good enough for me."

Credit Alan Batts - click to enlarge
Credit Alan Batts

Makes sense if you're Aarón Sànchez and mom is Zarella Martinez, one of New York's great Mexican chefs and the woman often credited with bringing authentic Mexican cuisine to New York.

It’s been two years since Centrico opened with Aarón at its helm, and judging from the popularity of this restaurant in the heart of Tribeca, there's no question that the handsome young chef has come into his own and is himself delivering authentic Mexican cuisine to New York. On our most recent visit, a hot and humid Thursday night, not only was every table inside taken, there was scarcely an empty place on the dining terrace that wraps around Franklin Street and West Broadway (where Edie Falco was spotted by one in our group).

Happily, we were indoors, inhaling the air-conditioning and seated on a comfortable banquette along the wall of windows looking out onto West Broadway. Before us was the entire high-ceilinged dining room, the long bar of hammered zinc on the far end, and the open kitchen where Aarón could be seen performing his culinary arts. The mood was festive. At a banquet-sized table, repeated toasts were being made. Nearby, a young couple, heads bent towards each other, were sipping margaritas and sharing cerviches.

This was the kind of night where, whether inside or out, you needed a drink. We briefly scanned Centrico's wine list, noting how many selections were from Spain including that country's well-loved "champagne" Cava Brut. But given the  mood and the focus of Centrico, we felt a Mexican spirit, something made from the agave plant, was more apropos. There are many Tequilas and Mezcals available: the recently bottled Blancos, the slightly aged Reposados, the longer aged Anejos -- which one of our party selected and downed straight!

Cr. Julie Stapen - click to enlarge
Cr. Julie Stapen

Supplied with drinks, we surveyed our copper-covered table laden with eye-opening guacamole and salsa, crispy chips, and copies of Centrico's menu, an intriguing document in and of itself representing the colorful and diverse gastronomies of Mexico's varied regions. An upbeat and informed server helped us through the many choices.  For starters, our group of four ended up with scallops and Serrano ceviches, skewered octopus with a cherry tomato salad, lump crabmeat with avaocado and chipotle aioli, and a quesadilla with vegetables, oaxaca cheese and roasted tomato salad. For main courses, we had the pan roasted chicken with mole; fried sweetbreads with bacon, jalapeno and lemon butter; frog legs with cilantro oil and calabacitas (the Mexican squash) with cheese; and the braised short ribs in ancho chili broth from Jalisco. Vibrant, spicy, unique, they were emblematic of a cuisine we all love, one light years away from the rice and beans we once thought defined Mexican food.

Cr. Julie Stapen - click to enlarge
Cr. Julie Stapen

Cr. Julie Stapen - click to enlarge
Cr. Julie Stapen

The preparations, the combinations, the exotic spices and ingredients -- it all seemed so complicated to us. But Aarón demurred. He relies on quality products, on seasonal produce. "You can create big flavors in Mexican cuisine without doing too much to it," he said.  

Whatever the young chef is doing, Mom approves.

So do we.

211 West Broadway
New York, N.Y. 10013

Phone: 212 431-0700

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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