Monday, June 13, 2011

El Centro DF

Our tour of 14th St. continues with one of the newest and most chic restaurants on the block. El Centro DF opened it's doors this summer under the ownership of Chef Richard Sandoval who also owns the popular Masa 14 two doors down.

Chef Sandoval opened this establishment with the premise of serving classic Mexican food and drinks with a contemporary backdrop. Ever since it's opening night El Centro has been one of the hot spots in the neighborhood with long lines for both dining and drinking.

My first experience came on a Sunday afternoon about a week after they had opened. I decided to choose this location for a small family dinner on a nice summer afternoon. Upon entering I adored the chic interior which is coated with the classic decor of a traditional Mexican taqueria.

The first thing you see upon entering is a small area where you can order take out or eat your food in a relatively quick manner. Behind this area is the dining area which is connected to an open kitchen which emanates with the rich flavors of Mexican cuisine. Once seated we were introduced to the philosophy of this restaurant which is to serve traditional food using fresh, sustainable ingredients.

Since they had just opened we were offered a free order of guacamole which usually runs for the steep price of $9.95. Within five minutes a gentleman came out with our guacamole which was made in front of us using a traditional Mexican spice grinder called a Molcajete. We were given a quick show in which our server grinned the fresh avocado, tomato, onions and cilantro that yielded some of the tastiest and freshest guacamole I have had in the US.


Our meal continued with the Cozumel Ceviche which was ordered as an appetizer. The ceviche was served with fresh avocado, corn, cilantro and tomato's which were piled on small crispy tortillas. The ceviche was spot on, the fish was fresh and flavorful and the presentation was as elegant as the overall flavor.

Our entrees quickly followed. My father order the Carne Asada which was beautifully executed. My sister ordered the Chicken Zarape which was equally as good. Since this was a taqueria I decided to order the El Pastor tacos which consist of pork belly, grilled pineapple, cilantro, onions and salsa verde which are served with rice and black beans.

(Cozumel Ceviche)

The tacos were pristine, the saltiness of the pork belly countered well with the sweetness of the grilled pineapple. The salsa verde added another dimension of flavor that produced a masterful dish. The black beans were served how I love them, mashed with a hint of grated cheese. Overall I enjoyed my dish as well as the overall meal.

This great experience made this a must go spot which I have frequented in the past month. Since then I have had the opportunity to sample their fish and steak tacos which were equally as good as the pork belly tacos. I have also nibbled on Jalisco Shrimp and Crab Enchilada which was also rather tasty.

(Al Pastor Taco's)

Despite the magnificent food a majority of my time here has been spent on their rooftop for their drinks which includes a very extensive Tequila list with over 200 brands to choose from. I am glad to say that El Centro offers some of the best cocktails I have had in the city including one of my new favorite drinks and which brought tom my attention after a long conversation with one the bartenders. This individual introduced me to the tequila mojito which offers a new spin to this classic cocktail.

Their late hours and basement dining area just add to the mystique and further entice me to continue to dine here. Everyone I have taken here has fallen in love with the cocktails, service and late night dining options.

All in all El Centro DF offers all the qualities that make this a great place for both food and drinks. The rooftop bar is a hot spot all summer which I will visit many times. The restaurant serves great food that is a little on the pricy side but well worth it for the flavor and execution that is the norm for any restaurant owned by Richard Sandoval. I highly recommend trying this place both to eat and drink. Their late night carry out menu is also an added boost to one of the better restaurants in the highly competitive 14th St. area.

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