Josh Capon (El Toro Blanco): Braised Shortrib Taco
"Viejo escuela—old school, baby!" says Capon of the soon-to-be-most-likely-packed El Toro Blanco in the west village. This plate got our personal nod for tastiest classic taco. Braised short ribs, cheddar, cheese, sour cream and pico de gayo on a crispy corn tortilla was "like old El Paso." Smoky, fully of flavor and really rich—we can't wait to see what else Capon's got coming up in that kitchen.
Alex Stupak (Empellón): Beer Braised Pork Tongue with Chorizo and Smoked Potatoes
As Stupak owns Empellón Taqueria (where your face will melt off with the stellar menu), we went in sorta expecting something spot on. He delivered with melt-in-your-mouth pork tongue, smoked potatoes and a side of refried black beans with a vinegary, smoky kick.
Aarón Sánchez (Mestizo): Tacos de Huitlacoche with Brussel Sprouts Salad
Sánchez's sweet red onions brought the best flavor to his flour tortilla with filled with pork, Brussels sprouts slaw and chicharon. Huitlacoches are mushroom-like growths on corn. Taste great, but google search for images at your own risk.
Einat Admony (Balaboosta): Jerusalem Mix with Yogurt and Microgreens
I've been mouthing off recently on how Admony is one of my favorite chefs in the city, and this plate once again lets me do so with confidence. One of our favorites, her Jerusalem mix of chicken thighs, merguez (a spicy sausage flavored with her harissa from Taïm) and sweet breads were really rich and dynamic. She smartly added cumin seeds (and another herb we can't recall) to her crunchy toasted tortillas, which gave an extra boost of mild spice. If you haven't gone down to Balaboosta yet, get the lead out.
Ivy Stark (Dos Cominos): Lobster Tacos with Jicama and Pineapple Slaw
A corn tortilla with lobster, coconut, serrano chili, and mango, it was a refreshing contrast to all the meat around.
George Mendes (Aldea): Shrimp Tacos with Dill-Pickled Cucumbers, Avocado Sour Cream and Coriander
Evidently Mendes uses "shrimp-head sauce" in his tomato rice. Our best advice after scarfing this down—put fish-head sauce with tomato and pepper on everything.
Harold Dieterle (Kin Shop): Beef Brisket and Bone Marrow Taco on Crispy Roti
Dieterle's braised beef brisket and bone marrow was packed with flavor and practically melted upon digging in. With yellow bean mayo, taro root and radish sprouts piled on a roti shell, this taco had flavor and texture and caused massive eye rolling and a wordless 20 seconds.
Jonathan Adams (Pub and Kitchen): Beef Short Rib Tacos with Pickled Cabbage and Piri Piri
Adams braised his short ribs in coffee, Worchestershire, chili powder, and veal stock, then topped it with pickled cabbage, coriander seeds, queso fresco and piri piri (Portuguese sweet hot sauce). The coffee and Worchestershire really made their way through for a slightly sweeter taco.
Lee Ann Wong (Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats") Miso Braised Mangalitsa Pork Neck Taco
The wafting aroma from Wong's pork neck tacos pulled us to her table long after we fancied ourselves full. The sweet, glazed meat had an excellently rich flavor, and the super-smooth guacamole and masago arare (round little rice crackers) added some stellar texture. (Click on this for some schooling on the Mangalitsa, my new favorite breed of pig.)
Marc Murphy (Ditch Plains): Pastrami Taco
Murphy's pastrami was perfectly soft and sweet, and paired simply and well with a creamy red cabbage slaw.
Seamus Mullen (Tertulia): Taco de Cordero
Mullen piled incredibly tender confit and smoked lamb, pickled market vegetables, creamy cucumber-dill yogurt and mojopicon (sauce from Canary islands) into a delicately thin tortilla.
Timon Balloo (Sugar Cane Raw Bar and Grill): Lentil Nan Taco with Short Ribs
With a nice dry spice to the short ribs and a good amount of cilantro and mint to the yogurt, Balloo brought some bright flavors and contrasting texture.
Richard Sandoval (Maya): Chorizo Tacos with Root Vegetable Escabeche
Sandoval claims his tacos are "made with love, but the ground beef, Mexican chorizo, Yukon gold potatoes, avocado salsa with tomatillos and escabeche made with carrots, chayote, onions and Avión tequila did it for us, too. Really incredible.
Luis Bollo (Selenas): Ropa Nueva Taco
Pedro Ximenez sherry popped some sweetness into the braised flank steak, served with a crispy spicy mayo and pickled radish with shaved red cabbage salad that was our favorite slaw of the evening.
Willis Loughhead (Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel): Lobster Roll with Goat Cheese and Avocado Sauce
Loughhead's avocado sauce was incredibly creamy underneath the taco-take on a lobster roll.
Willis Loughhead (Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel): Caramelized White Chocolate Mousse
With strawberries and margarita foam, this little dessert (the only pairing we saw) followed Loughhead's lobster roll with a bit of sweet bite.
Sam Gorenstein (My Ceviche): Octopus Ceviche Taco
With rocoto and a pepper-lime emulsion alongside corn on the cob with lime-roasted jalapeno mayo, Gorenstein brought some really excellent seafood to NYC from Miami.
John DeLucie (The Lion): Ancho Chili Rubbed Heritage Pork Taco
DeLucie spiced his pork shoulder with ancho chilies, then paired it with sweet delicata squash, pepitas, salsa verde, and delfino cilantro. The spice level on the pork was prime and paired well with the just-sweet-enough squash (which may have now replaced acorn squash as a favorite in a particular writer's heart for now).
Akhtar Nawab (La Esquina): Lamb and Short Ribs Taquitos with Hearts of Palm and Purslane Salad
The line was long for these baskets of mixed lamb and short ribs tacos. Hearts of palm and purslane switched things up a bit as well.
Bobby Flay (Mesa Grill): Shrimp, Toasted Garlic, Goat Cheese Taco
Thyme and chili de arbol sauce topped event host Flay's shrimp tacos in his beloved blue corn tortilla shell.