For a man operating an under-the-radar Mexican restaurant out in Brooklyn, Roberto Santibañez carries a trunk of accolades. He's an award winning chef, a cookbook author, and the former culinary director of the Rosa Mexicano empire. His newest restaurant, Fonda in the East Village, an offshoot of the original Park Slope location, has ruby walls, gothic trimmings, and a great happy hour, a peepshow of what the menu has to offer.
The list of botanas (all $6) are snacks to nibble with a margarita in hand, like tiny, achiote-marinated pork tacos and quesadillas with mushrooms and cheese. The house margarita, the Rosita, is more tart than the classic lime cocktail, made sour with hibiscus flowers. Some of the dried petals are crushed to a powder with sugar and salt, to line the rim of the glass. There is also Negra Modelo ($4) on tap.
There are flautas, rolled chicken tacos fried to a shattering crispiness, one drenched in red salsa, the other, green, painted with lines of crema. And, sopes, small rounds of masa filled with a paste of black beans, a drizzle of salsa, and a heap of sliced romaine, one of the few instances where the lettuce is merited, a crunchy, sweet contrast to the savory puree underneath.
Guacamole, made to order in a molcajete, is served with both chips, and a basket of handmade, warm tortillas that smell of a heaven paved with ears of corn. Moist and delicate, with a substantial chewiness, they taste resoundingly of sweet toasted corn. A fine French baguette would seem crude in their presence. A spoonful of the guacamole, wrapped up in one of the tortillas with a sprinkle of the smoked pasilla salsa on top, and you have what all vegan food aspires to achieve, perfection without any animal pain.
You might just end up staying for dinner.
Happy Hour, Fonda, East Village
Monday 5 pm.. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.