Friday, July 3, 2015

NYC Dining: Barrio Chino (Mexican)

I’m back with another New York City restaurant review, and I’m super excited about this week’s pick. Ever since moving to the Lower East Side for the summer, I’ve been told that I simply have to try the Mexican food in the area. Mexican cuisine has always been a favorite of mine, so I gladly took up the recommendation. I did some research online beforehand, hoping that one or two places stand out as having the best fare, but the dozens of little Mexican joints near me all have stellar ratings. Obviously this made narrowing down the options quite difficult. I finally decided on a particularly tiny place with promising reviews: Barrio Chino, a discrete place with no signage. 

I went to the restaurant at 7 p.m. on a Thursday night, and the place was packed. However, given that the restaurant only boats about eight or ten tables, I wasn’t too surprised. The windows at the front were propped open, but the noise level in Barrio Chino seemed a little high. Nonetheless my dad and I took a seat at the bar and ordered a round of margaritas. At $10 each, the drinks were on the pricy side. However, they tasted good and were very strong, so the hefty price can be justified at least a little. We also put in an order for chips, salsa, and guacamole.  Just a warning: you have to pay for the chips and salsa here. I’ve never been to a Mexican place where you have to pay for these staples … I don’t know if this is an NYC thing or what, but I wasn’t about to go to a Mexican place without eating some chips and salsa!
I have to say, the chips were amazing. You could tell they were homemade from the super crunchy texture and the perfect dusting of salt. I could’ve eaten five orders of these things, but unfortunately I think you have to pay for refills. The salsa also tasted good – nothing particularly stuck out about it compared to other salsas, but I’d gladly eat it again. Same with the guacamole.

Now for the main courses: Bistek A La Casa (skirt steak) and Enchiladas De Mole, which we split. Through my online research I learned that these are the two most highly rated meals at the restaurant. At around $18 each, the dishes were pricier than Mexican food back in the Midwest. However, this is New York City, and honestly the meals tasted ten times more authentic than anything you can get in Ohio. My dad’s skirt steak, which came with black beans and a sauteed spinach-mushroom mix, was perfectly cooked and full of flavor; even someone who doesn’t like Mexican food would enjoy the steak. I also loved the marinade that covered the steak. I would go back to Barrio Chino just for this!
I never had enchilada de mole before. My dad said that the dish is made with chocolate and usually tastes bitter. When the plate came out, all I saw was dark brown sauce. However, after some digging with my fork, I can report that three enchiladas were hidden underneath. It turns out my dad was right: the enchilada was really bitter. The harsh taste actually took me by surprise at first, especially since I could taste the chocolate undertones. However, the more I ate, the more I liked the dish. The sauce tasted unlike anything I’ve ever had, especially in terms of Mexican food, but the uniqueness was good. I happily ate the whole thing and would order again.

Verdict: If you like authentic Mexican food (well, authentic for New York) and are looking for a hip place for a quick dinner, try Barrio Chino! Get the skirt steak if you’re feeling safe, and don’t forget to order the delicious chips.