The upscale hacienda decor is an appropriate setting for some of the best Mexican food in the city. Begin with a delicious mango margarita or a shot of tequila from the premium list. Richard Sandoval, the chef and owner, prepares an array of dishes. Exciting starters include the sopa de elote, a creamy roasted corn soup served with a dumpling made from cuitlacoche (corn fungus), and tamal Oaxaqueno, steamed cornmeal and chicken wrapped in a banana leaf and served with mole sauce. The entrees include quetzal, a pan-roasted sea bass served with cactus salad and grilled cilantro shrimp, and pato poblano, grilled duck breast with butternut squash puree and prune mole. The boldly flavored food here will revive even the most jaded palate.
Address: 1191 1st Ave., between 64th and 65th Sts.
Phone: 212/585-1818. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch.
Peruse the unusual menu while enjoying a first-class margarita and one of the beguiling dips-warm tomatillo (green tomato), tomato chipotle, pico de gallo (raw onion-tomato salsa), and chunky guacamole, beautifully presented in the traditional molcajete (lava-rock mortar). Among the inventive dishes are grilled clams in a banana-leaf wrapping with peanut-tomato sauce, and chocolate sorbet laced with jalapeno peppers. Burnt-orange and blue walls add zest to the attractive long main dining room.
Address: 174 82nd St., between Lexington and 3rd Aves.
Phone: 212/717-7772. AE, DC, MC, V.