Pachanga Patterson (33-17 31st Ave., Astoria)
Anyone in the restaurant industry will tell you that sometimes the most delicious creations may never find their way onto a menu. What might be your favorite dish at your local restaurant is more than likely pedestrian and common to the chef or waiter who unfortunately more often than not eats it out of convenience rather than choice. In the back kitchens after dinner service has simmered down, those common ingredients get manipulated and rearranged into who can result in some pretty delicious and inspired bites. Staff members remove their aprons to savor family meals while decompressing, oftentimes sharing favorite family recipes or recent discoveries. With cooks frequently from Mexico, it should come as no surprise that more often than not, those family meals are predominantly Mexican-inspired.
If you're an enthusiastic diner who now feels gypped from some of New York's most exciting off-menu specialties, the owners of Vesta (the successful Italian restaurant famous for wines on tap and Baby Jesus Cake) opened a restaurant last week, Pachanga Patterson, conceived around the very principal of bringing those simple, creative, secret recipes to the front of the house for customers to enjoy. In a nod to both their philosophy as well as the history of the neighborhood, the name is a blend of a term for dance party and the former name of 31st Avenue. While the menu is decidedly Mexican, the ingredients might catch you a little off guard... in a rather delicious way. And just as with her successful kitchen at Vesta, Chef Michelle Vido has created a menu devoted to supporting local farmers and artisans with ingredients sourced in the area.
They've only been open a few days, but here is a sample of the delicious dishes we devoured in a cozy, exposed brick dining room dressed up like a festive street party. The service was impeccable, relaxed and friendly, elevating the innovative food which is lovingly prepared with the signature stamp of clean, simple flavors we have come to love at Vesta.
To begin, share the trio of salsas, available for $5 each or all three for $12. The roasted corn and tomato is like a cool confetti of vegetables spilled from a salsa piñata. The tomatillo & avocado is creamy and packs a slight snap on the tongue, with the charred tomato & serrano chili (pictured at the heading) loaded with a wickedly playful dose of fiery heat.
Tacos range from batter-fried pollack to Berkshire pork shoulder with cracklins, but we fell in love with the Moo Shu Duck, deliciously glazed in a caramel-sweet and tickling-spiced sriracha hoisin sauce, with color and cool crunch added by crisp slivers of cucumber and radish (3 for $12).
While I will return soon to enjoy the pork belly enchiladas with chocolate & fig and cumin crema, I rather hastily licked the plate clean with of the vintage hanger steak, tender seared beef medallions surrounded by a tangy poblano moat, arranged on a savory mountain of exquisitely tender swiss chard laced with a lava flow of wonderfully salty oaxaca cheese ($19). Herbivores will delight in the Veggie Jenga, a stack of tostada, smashed beans, and avocado, capped with a fried egg sombrero, all served on a silky pool of sweet potato puree ($19).
While we didn't save room for dessert, the show-stealer is the El Diablito (baby devil cake), a spin on the sacred Vesta dessert, presented here as a chocolate date cake drowned in chili-infused caramel. The drink menu features several classics with a few new concoctions, including a Tequila Mockingbird--a sparkling margarita with mint, cucumber, and champagne. Tequila and mexcal shots are served with a sangrita chaser of orange, lime, and tomato juice with ancho chili powder.
Have you tried Pachanga Patterson yet? While it's still newly opened, please share your experiences in the comments below...