Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Look Who Just Fell Off the Turnip Truck

Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamales -- Mesa Grill
Mesa Grill

"I got lost," Vodka confesses to Ginger, plopping her stuff upon our table at Mesa Grill.  "I was trying to dine at the deli across the street."
Which, For the Record, Does Not Serve Tamales
With nary a reaction to Vodka's inability to navigate Fiftth Avenue, Ginger states, "I'm wearing my hunting outfit."

"Your what?!" Vodka looks at Ginger's camouflage-free outfit quizzically.

"Hunting outfit," Ginger points to the down vest piled up next to her.  "See, I didn't know what to wear, because my friend invited me to the Rangers game after this (so, by the way, the first thing I had to do was Google what sport the Rangers play), and I didn't know what clothes would fit in at Mesa Grill AND Madison Square Garden."

"So you settled on 'hunting'?"

"And the best part is, when I came in, the host asked, 'Can I check your -- ?' and then he didn't know what to call this thing," Ginger says, gesturing to her vest.  By this point, we are so taken with our own idiocy that we can barely concentrate on our waiter's delivery of Ginger's cactus pear margarita.
Pretty in Pink
As Vodka dives in to take a sip in order to see if she wishes to drink the same thing, the waiter pipes in, "It might be too tart for you."  Apparently, this waiter (aptly named 'Bobby,' though unfortunately not 'Flay') doubles as a cocktail taste soothsayer in his spare time.
For His Next Trick, He Will Make Both Margaritas Disappear
"Ugh, no!" Vodka practically spits her mouthful back into Ginger's glass and orders a regular (some would say 'boring') margarita without salt.  We also decide to split the Rough Cut Tuna Nachos, the Cremini Mushroom Quesadilla, and, as Michael Symon had recommended on the LAS VEGAS episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, the Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamales.
Honestly, We Were Expecting More of a Red Hot-Like Candy When We Heard 'Hot Tamales'
As we wait, Ginger reveals that while Vodka was wandering aimlessly on the wrong side of Fifth Avenue, a busboy had filled the water glass at Vodka's place, only to be reprimanded by our non-Flay Bobby waiter and forced to take it away until Vodka had arrived.  This policy strikes us as a colossal waste of both water and energy -- after all, what is going to happen to the water until Vodka arrives?!  The ice is going to melt and it will become "watery"?
If You'd Like to Inexplicably Refill This Glass, However, We Won't Object
When our bread basket arrives, we begin to realize that the waitstaff and busboys at Mesa Grill have been given a variety of such "misguided" (Ginger's favorite word) instructions: small plates are laid out and then taken away at rapid fire pace, and we can barely finish an item before it is swiped off of our table (when non-Flay Bobby does this to Ginger's barely full margarita glass later on, she gives him a look that can only be described as a "hostile snarl").
Don't Mess with Our Cocktails or Our Carbs
Additionally, our water glasses are refilled practically every time we take a sip, yet ironically, when we finally finish our meal, there is not a staff person in sight to bring us the check.  The whole service, overall, is a vision of inconsistent spastic-ness.
The Waitstaff Has Been Chewing on Too Many Hot Peppers in the Kitchen. The Spice Going To Their Heads
Thankfully, though, we have the bread basket to distract us from the frenetic energy around us, and it is a Scarpetta-like work of art.  Our favorite variety is a soft, salty, rosemary loaf of the most ideal texture imaginable, though the corn muffin and sourdough-like versions are also quite good, especially when laden with soft butter (of which plenty was provided).
Blue Moon Over Mexico
After the bread basket alone, we are convinced that we are in 5-star territory, no matter what the corn tamales taste like.
Though They Better Be Good - We're Not THAT Generous
At this point, Ginger starts looking towards the ceiling in an accusatory way, glaring at the hearty breeze that is hitting us every few seconds.  "That is a very aggressive fan," she states, and Vodka then becomes too busy trying to take pictures of the air circulating monstrosity to notice when our "entrees" arrive.
Now We Have It Out for Restaurant Cooling Systems, Too
First up, the Best Thing I Ever Ate tamales -- the corn mixture itself is stuffed into a corn husk with grilled shrimp and cilantro sauce drizzled over the top and spilling out.
Let's Just Ignore That Pesky Overgrown Greenery and Concentrate on the Important Stuff
At first, we're afraid that we're going to find the sweetness of the tamale off-putting against the savory shrimp, but the flavors meld together much more successfully than we had imagined.
Hey, Who You Callin' a Corny Shrimp?
However, these tamales do not hold a candle to what we actually would have chosen (along with the bread basket) as the Best Thing I Ever Ate dish of the night, the quesadilla.
Not Your Grandmother's Applebee's Appetizer
While the tamales are good -- certainly good -- they are a mere afterthought when it comes to the quesadilla dish.  Two fried tortillas stand stuffed with cheese and hearty mushrooms, topped by a fried egg (which Ginger is initially timid about but comes to find delectable) and healthy smotherings of ricotta and salsa verde.
Again with the Huge Sprig of Greenery, Flay?
Within one bite, we are obsessed, and while we came to Mesa Grill for the tamales, we are certainly staying for the quesadilla.
Or Two or Three
The only slightly disappointing dish among our three is the plate of nachos.  We had ordered them mostly because we had just been bemoaning the fate of Craftsteak and their version of nachos, which had been featured on the Best Thing I Ever Ate SNACK ATTACK episode, and which we will never get to try.  We had therefore chosen Mesa Grill's nachos option only because we wanted a large pile of crunchy chips coated in cheese and beans and guacamole.  Instead, we receive a plate of fresh tuna tartare with mango-habanero hot sauce and avocado crema, and a dainty bowl of fried chips on the side.

Not exactly our nacho ideal.
Ummm, We're Sorry... What Is This?!
The tuna itself is tasty enough, though if it had even a smattering more of  habanero spice, we probably would not have been able to consume it.
What Part of This Plate Spells 'Nachos' to You?
The chips are barely large enough to support the chunks of tuna (especially when the frantic busboys take away our bowl before we've even finished), and overall, these "nachos" (if we can even call them that) are just not what we wanted.
Somebody Pass the Tostitos, Please
Depriving ourselves of a second margarita, we instead decide to order dessert and ask non-Flay Bobby what he would recommend.  When he describes our first choice, the apple pie sundae, as being on the small side ("So we'd be sad, is what you're saying?" Ginger interprets), we settle on the chocolate bread pudding, mostly because Ginger is dying to shove toasted bourbon marshmallows in her mouth.
And Also Because It Contains the Word 'Bread'
The dessert proves to be fine, if entirely too chocolatey and too little whipped creamy for Vodka's tastes, but overall, we are satisfied.
Yet Unfortunately, We Are Not Drunk Off of the Marshmallows
And then we leave the place, and we officially fall off of our own proverbial turnip truck.

We are tasked with the goal of walking three blocks -- together -- to the subway.  Two blocks in, we find ourselves inexplicably separated, when mere seconds before, we had been walking next to each other.


To this day, it remains a nonsensical mystery how we ended up walking down opposite sides of 14th Street, having to resort to using our cell phones in order to find each other.  As we eventually navigate to our train, two figurative hillbillies making their way through the big city, Ginger's hunting outfit has suddenly never seemed more appropriate.

Mesa Grill's Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamales: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

1 comment:

  1. I had similar service at a Ramsay restaurant in London. Food was amazing, service... not so much