Oxomoco is one of the best Mexican restaurants in NYC, from the owners of Speedy Romero. Their specialty is tacos with wood-fired proteins — our favorites are the lamb and the fish. The space is beautiful with great drinks and a very LA vibe. After being open just a year, Oxomoco received a Michelin star so expect a crowd.
Once your table is ready inside, you’ll be glad you waited. The dining room is a high-ceilinged space that’s covered in white paint and green plants, which doesn’t make it unique. But some other things do: the big round booths that make you feel like it’s your birthday even if it’s not, the chef’s counter overlooking the wood-fired grill, and the kind of good lighting typically only achieved with a filter.
This fanciful venture is the brainchild of the chef-restaurateur Justin Bazdarich who operates the popular Brooklyn (and now, also, Lower East Side) wood-fire-pizza joint, Speedy Romeo. Wood fire, it turns out, is one of the central themes at Oxomoco, too, although this time the specialty of the house — aside from the usual barrage of margaritas, guacamole, and mountains of salty, thirst-inducing chips — is that ancient Mexican art of open-fire cooking called barbacoa. The building of large fires is constrained among the towers of Manhattan, of course, but out here in the relatively wide-open spaces of the city’s great barbecue borough, Bazdarich and his cooks can let their imaginations run wild. The great steel grills in the back of the room (which used to be a plumbing warehouse, for the record) are stocked with stacks of burning cordwood from lunchtime until late in the evening, and during the course of the day, almost everything on the menu is thrown onto it, from whole chickens and chunks of flank steak and marinated lamb to the delicate leaves of romaine lettuce used in the house Punta Verde Caesar salad.
Bazdarich has really hit the culinary jackpot at Oxomoco, where the tacos are every bit as good as the ones at Salazar.
Best is barbacoa. At Oxomoco, lamb that has been grilled over wood, slow-cooked, and then loaded into a coarse-textured corn tortilla that will remind you of Los Angeles’s. A relish made of pipicha — a feathery herb that tastes like dirty mint — crowns the jiggly meat, as does a squash blossom that doesn’t add much but sure looks pretty riding shotgun. Sadly, the price of $16 for two tacos is exactly twice the cost at Salazar.
Other Oxomoco tacos worth tasting include pig cheek with green avocado salsa, flank steak with smoked eggplant relish and rubbery cotija cheese (now served with caramelized onions), and tempura-fried hake (now it’s shrimp), reminding us that the Baja Peninsula, the original home of the fish taco, is considered part of the Sonoran Desert. But a vegetarian taco of beets and potatoes intended to resemble chorizo is bland and boring. Other antojitos, or corn-based staples, are worth ordering, on a menu twice as long as Salazar’s. Whatever you do, don’t miss the creamy charred-carrot tamales, which come pooled in a verdant sauce. The steak tartare tostada ($16), exceedingly fresh beef cut into a ragged dice, is preferable to a tuna tostada that makes too-lavish use of soy sauce, which clashes with the corn tortilla. In fact, I’d skip anything featuring raw fish at Oxomoco, including the hamachi aguachile. What New York City really needs is a full-blown Mexican cevicheria.