Here is huge tip for future reference: The way to win me over is to give me a mind blowingly good, but not brain freezing, frozen margarita. I prefer it to be a frozen strawberry margarita, but I also understand limitations. I will also do cucumber, passion fruit, pomegranate, and one day I hope to encounter a raspberry frozen margarita. I am sure that my literary idols do not respect me for this and are currently glaring down at me as they sip the heavy, brown liquors that saturated their livers and eventually killed them.
In any case, my love of the margarita has led me to discover the magnificence of good Mexican food in New York City over many years. Unfortunately, it has also taken me to unfortunate food spots that claim to be Mexican, but instead host dead flies in their re-fried beans and a little something I like to call death by E.Coli.Thankfully, Órale Mexican Kitchen is not such a disgrace and falls into the first category.Bird and I were excited by Órale Mexican Kitchen and continue to anticipate having a full dinner there. We attended the grand opening party and loved the space. The Upper West Side location, on Amsterdam Avenue between 97th and 98th, is the second Órale Mexican Kitchen to come into being in the tri-state area, the first residing in Jersey City. The word to describe the overall experience was vibrant. The moment you walk into the room the interior decor pops out at you, but not in such a way that one would feel overwhelmed. The bright colors are appropriately balanced by the dark woods and dim lighting, giving the restaurant the colliding old and new world feel that the owners are looking for. The balanced atmosphere of cool and colorful is a great in which to drink with friends or even the right kind of date, though those are always in short supply, and in the back there is an outside eating area that is perfect for summer dining, presenting itself as a secret garden amidst the surrounding brick.Chef James Muir’s menu and the bar are nothing short of creative. Upon entering I was handed what turned out to be a frozen sangria margarita and the night started off just right. Simple, but elegant, the flavors of the margarita blended beautifully with those of the house red sangria and if there hadn’t been other realms of beverage to explore I would have continued drinking them all night. Another drink to mention is the pina colada mojito. If you want the coconut flavor, but are not too keen on the heaviness of the pina colada’s coconut milk and rum, or the possibility that it will make you look pregnant in your sun dress, this is the drink for you. Refreshing and playful without the sultry tones of the sangria margarita, the merging of the coconut tequila with pineapple, mint, and lime is delightful. Warning: Both of these drinks may result in excessive flirtation.The party did an excellent job of allowing us to sample the menu. Appetizers were constantly streaming out of the kitchen. Most were wonderful, including the flautas de res. A crispy taquito with beef tinga, salsa verde, chipotle, orange, queso fresco, and crema, this bite sized morsel was perfectly crisp and crunchy on the outside, while bursting with smooth flavor on the inside. When I return for dinner, I will order an entire plate of these just for myself. The empanadas were not so lovely. The flavor was bland and the dough was oily. I wasn’t quite sure what the waitress said was in the one that I tasted, but after taking a bite I didn’t care to find out.The guacamole station was a returning point throughout the night. The Casa guacamole, a glorious combination of avocado with tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime, graced the table with interesting fixings surrounding it, most noticeably a bowl of blue cheese and toasted pepitas. This has incited interest in me to sample the Órale’s Blue Demon, a guacamole on their menu that hosts these two ingredients.I didn’t know that ceviche was Mexican. I am fairly certain that it is traditionally European, but I’m always open to being wrong and, at the end of the day, whether or not ceviche is a culturally sound dish to have in this restaurant doesn’t actually concern me. It mixes well with the other dishes, adding a lighter element to a menu that already uses fishes, such as salmon, tuna, and mahi-mahi in their starter dishes. The variety of material at the station was competent and the raw fish was fresh. Although I am not a ceviche expert, I have a soft spot for fish in all of its various forms and found this to be worth the experiment.I thought I would finish off this review with the tacos. I’ve never been a huge lover of the taco, having always preferred the burrito, just as I have always preferred one thousand page novels to short stories and the men I have dated to those I should have actually dated. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender, and richly flavored. The pork and beef happened to be my favorite in terms of the overall end taco, but the chicken and fish were also gorgeous in flavor and bite. You do not need a lot of toppings for these tacos, the smallest complement of sauce, pico de gallo, and cabbage slaw is quite enough.Órale Mexican Kitchen is a fun spot with an aging elegance. It is definitely for a younger crowd, twenties into the mid-thirties. Bird and I gave our party dining experience a seven.