We have written about Mott Haven's Mexicocina before, praising their cooking for its variety and warmth. In the short time since that first review, owner Antonio Vilchis has opened up two new locations (Mexicosina and Mexicozina), and converted the original Mexicocina into a take-out spot with limited bar-seating. The tables have moved to Jackson Avenue, a bigger and sunnier space with a deliberate and welcoming aesthetic—no small thing in a neighborhood of diners and dives. It is a place where a pair of electronic fireplaces exude an strangely genuine warmth.
Highlighted by chilaquiles ($8-12) and picaditas ($7-10, 3 an order), the selection of antojitos is standard and, as at many Mexican restaurants in New York, you may find yourself wishing for less ubiquitous dishes. When ordering, look instead—first and foremost—to the specials menu, which is nearly identical across the three locations.
On that menu you may find enchiladas de borrego ($9; lamb enchiladas), pipian verde de pollo (chicken in green pipian), and costillas de cerdo en salsa verde ($9; pork ribs in tomatillo-chipotle sauce). Some confusion worth clearing up: at the original location, those ribs are advertised as costillas en salsa chipotle. This is a misnomer. The sauce favors the tang of the tomatillo over the smoke of the chipotle, much like Vegas would Lebron in a 1-on-1 against Tyler Hansbrough.
Mole de hoya* is not, as I hoped, a colloquial name for Oaxacan mole verde but rather a common spelling for mole de olla. (When a craving strikes, the green mole can be found a few blocks south at La Morada.)
*Hoya means "leaf," as in "hoya de aguacate" or avocado leaf.
Before speaking of more flashy fare, it's worth pointing out how well-prepared a side of black beans the kitchen here puts out—so often are they neglected and puréed into a bland, pasty mess. Sprinkled with snowflakes of grated cheese, the beans are pleasingly inconsistent in their texture. They will have you reaching for more.
The previously mentioned costillas in salsa verde, which Scarlett wrote about in her initial review, should be ordered whenever available. There is a homebody's dinner of pollo a la cacerolla ($9; chicken casserole), a dish of flavorful but slightly mushy potatoes and simply seasoned chicken baked in broth, onion and tomato thickened ever so slightly with masa. What the chicken lacks in smoke and fire it makes up for in juicy and tender meat. This is not an ambitious dish, but it is one that will fortify you on a rainy day.
More indulgent are their alambres Mexicocina ($11, skewered meats), a smattering of crumbled chorizo, chopped bistec, and—a house twist—bacon blanketed in Oaxacan cheese. (You may wish, as I did, for bite-sized chicharrons instead of the bacon.) The chorizo, purchased from a New Jersey butcher at a volume of 40 pounds a week, is spicy and fresh, with a smokiness that is amplified by the bacon. While not quite as good as the homemade chorizo Casa Enrique makes, it is still superior to what you will get at most taquerias throughout the city. The squiggles of bistec, though, are smoldered and short on flavor.
The highlight of my most recent meal, however, came by way of a steaming mug of arroz con leche ($2.50). There is a clarity of flavor here not found in lesser mugs; the milk and rice with a cinnamon waft. It is as unimpeachable a rendition of the drink as I have found in New York, one could be improved only—if it at all—by a fancifying touch of cocoa bitters or orange zest.
The cooking at Mexicocina's original and new locations is good; I have so far found several dishes I have enjoyed considerably. But there is inconsistency, and missteps that need addressing. The tortillas, which do not taste homemade, are pulled from the grill prematurely and have precious little in the way of nutty flavor. A glass of agua de limon ($2) tasted like Minute Maid, though there were plenty of slices of lime in the vat. Then there was the overcooked lengua, no longer nimble but tough. Nonetheless, most of the food is worth celebrating. We are drawn to the restaurant for its selection of well-executed and less common dishes in New York, and for its promise.
503 Jackson Avenue Avenue, The Bronx, NY 10455 (map) 347-498-1339
800 149th Street, The Bronx, NY 10455 (map) 347-498-1055
444 149th Street, The Bronx, NY 10455 (map) 917-962-9400