Ofrenda is a cantina-like bistro in the West Village with small candlelit tables, mismatched wooden chairs, and little cabinets of curiosities on the walls. Owner and host Jorge Gomez, 29, considers it like his home, where guests find genuine Mexican food served elegantly in an unpretentious setting. By your second visit, the staff will know your name. The bar serves 240 types of tequila in a variety of recipes made with fresh juices, many of them created by Gomez.
Chef Mario Hernandez is from a culinary family in Cuernavaca Moreles and worked with American luminaries such as Douglas Rodriguez. He uses his native products and spices to create sophisticated Mexican fare that will haunt your culinary memory. Empanadas filled with spinach, corn, manchego, and chile amarillo are accompanied by a delicious roasted peach-onion salsa. The Gordita is a wow: Tender habanero- and coffee-braised pork, a slice of pork belly, pickled red onion, cilantro, and a Yucatan salsa of crushed toasted pumpkin seeds and tomato is all encased in a crunchy corn bun; a sort of Mexican slider. Try the Tacos de Chapulin, grasshoppers from Oaxaca, with pasilla mescal salsa—a very earthy dish with a sweet-heat essence. The Costilla Tatemade entrée of slow braised short ribs is served with mescal pasilla salsa, grilled nopal salad, and black beans flavored with pipicha, which is a piney, minty herb similar to cilantro. Red pomegranate seeds float in the dish, and you will treasure each one for that burst of tangy sweet juice when you bite into it. Ofrenda means “offering,” and this is a wonderful one. Dinner Monday-Saturday, 4 to 11pm; later Thursday-Saturday; weekend brunch, 11am to 4pm. -- Marian Betancourt