Well, it’s not that new… But thank crikey the geniuses behind beloved, now-shuttered Bedford Avenue mainstay Bonita (the staff and the cooks, to be specific), have managed to open a new spot just a block over on South 4th Street: Cariño. And boy is it good.
The menu is simpler than Bonita’s, and the few specials seemed to reflect a trip to the market in Queens that very morning. We started with the house guacamole, a fantastic “more authentic” (we were told) version of the ubiquitous appetizer featuring a hard-to-get Mexican herb called papalo instead of lime juice and cilantro: it was peppery and bright, offering a complexity not often found in the more common recipe… (Unfortunately, papalo isn’t always easy to come by, so if “Ricardo’s Guacamole” is one of the specials, just order it.) We also shared a watercress, orange and jicama salad with a chipotle vinaigrette, a perfect balance of sharp and sweet.
My companion and I (my darling wife) kept it simple with mains: fish tacos, and rajas (potato and peppers) tacos. Holy shit they were good. The (very fresh) fish was lightly deep fried and sat succulently (what’s with food writing and adverbs?) amidst the usual taco fixings, all fresh and finely minced, with a perfect drizzle of what must’ve been chipotle mayo. The same goes for my rajas, the finest, lightest version of it I’ve ever had.
Cariño doesn’t have a liquor license yet, nor are they able to allow BYOB, but in a funny way, this was kind of perfect for our meal, as the cold glasses of freshly made jamaica (sorrel) kept everything light (and cheap). It was almost like Mexican food served at a spa retreat: very healthy, very light, very fresh.
I almost decided not to blog about this restaurant, so I could keep the whole place—with its elegant, simple space and outdoor seating—to myself. But these guys are doing fine work, and they deserve every success for their efforts.
84 South 4th St, between Berry and Wythe