Residents of the Yorkville area of the Upper East Side have been mourning the loss of beloved Second Avenue Mexican eatery Taco Taco since it closed several years ago and were dealt another blow when the neighborhood's Cilantro outpost shuttered last month. The two won't be easily replaced, but at least there's now a new option for guacamole, quesadillas and hearty Mexican fare when newcomer Epazote opens this evening. The new restaurant, which purports to be a fusion of Mexican and French cuisines, takes over the former Pitch & Fork space on 1st Avenue as a rebranding by owners Jacques Restaurant Group, who also run longtime Jacques Brasserie nearby.
The herb from which the restaurant takes its name pops up in several dishes, adding a pungent, fennel-esque flavor. You'll find it in one of the four house ceviches; the De Tuna ($15) cures the fish with lime, passion juice, epazote, watermelon radish, avocado oil, scallion and cilantro. The herb is commonly found in dishes containing groovy fungus huitlacoche; here, a quesadilla ($12) comes stuffed with both plus roasted corn, zucchini, garlic and cheese. The mushroom pops up again in the Lobina Rayada Nayarit Style ($26), a pan seared striped bass dish with a huitlacoche-portobello gratin and passion juice-agave-serrano pepper sauce.
Tacos, like one stuffed with slow-cooked duck leg, sweet onions and apples; rich queso fundidos with chorizo or poblanos; and the requisite table-side quacamole—made here with pumpkin seeds and serrano peppers—round out the menu. A brunch service includes a take on huevos rancheros with strawberry, endive, goat cheese and white balsamic, plus a burger with queso fresco and french toast with mixed berries. There aren't any head-sized margaritas here; instead, opt for the delicate Paloma, made with tequila and grapefruit soda.
1606 1st Avenue at 83rd Street, 212-988-1704; website