The New York Times loves Enrique Olvera
The Mexican chef and Phaidon author’s NYC restaurant receives a glowing review from the paper’s Pete Wells
Mexican cuisine is pretty fashionable at the moment, as the huge success of our recent title Mexico: The Cookbook indicates. This, writes The New York Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells, “has led to the illusion that New York is enjoying a boom in serious Mexican cuisine, when in fact what the city is experiencing is a handful of restaurants that present, some more convincingly than others, a chef’s south-of-the-border fantasies.”
Mexican-born chef and Phaidon author Enrique Olvera harbours no such fantasies; his forthcoming monograph, Mexico from the Inside Out, which we will publish this autumn, demonstrates just how deeply he understands the region's cusine. However, as Wells explains in his glowing review of the chef's new Manhattan restaurant Cosme, when Olvera decided to serve Mexican food in the city, he chose to research NYC’s culinary preferences, to understand how his native cuisine could be best adapted to suit New York. “He studied its dining rooms, its menus, its cocktails and its customers,” Wells writes. “He was clearly taking notes, because he shows an uncannily state-of-the-art instinct for what New Yorkers want when they go out for dinner.”
This preliminary work has paid off, according to Wells’ glowing review, published yesterday. “The cooking is a thrill,” Wells said. “Almost everything you taste at Cosme seems new without being forced or mannered. It isn’t the kind of Mexican cooking that can be learned on a vacation. It has to be lived, and for that there are no shortcuts.”
Rather than bow to certain clichés, Olvera has managed to open a restaurant that captures the delicacy and flavour of Mexico, without the attendant stereotypes. “Mr. Olvera doesn’t use heat and spice as weapons,” Wells explained, “he uses them like a pen, to sharpen and define the outlines of a dish.” This restraint extends to the décor too. Wells admires how Cosme goes “without all the props (sombreros, grinning calaveras) that say, ‘Hola, amigos, have a margarita!’"
It really is a great write-up which you can read in full here. Visit the restaurant’s site here; come back soon for more news of Olvera’s monograph, and if you’d like to find out about the kind of places Olvera himself likes to eat at, pick up a copy of Where Chefs Eat; he is one of more than 600 great chefs who have recommended their favourite places to eat out.