By Rory Winston
Medina has founded yet another Mecca - admittedly, an irrelevant pun given that Julian Medina is a Mexican chef while the new Mecca being referred to is a third restaurant in a growing New York based franchise known as Toloache. Still, there is something religious about Medina’s following – especially if one looks at the loyal clientele that still flock to his earlier theater district location and the later converts that seek culinary redemption at his Upper East Side venue.
Counting myself amongst the devout masses, I decided to go on pilgrimage to the new Toloache on Thompson where rumor had it that revisionists had altered the sacred texts. Resolved to go through my dining ritual, I took the holy menu in hand and began to chant out my usual order as if by rote. First I recited my steadfast belief in the guacamole trinity – one avocado variation with onion and Serrano chilies, tomatoes and cilantro leaves; another fiery variation with chipotle and queso fresco; and the father of all flavors – the one with ripe mango, peach habanero and Thai basil and pomegranate seeds.
As libation came in the splendid form of a chef selection Margarita, I muttered my wish for chapulines taco stuffed with onions, jalapenos and, of course, Oaxacan-style dried grasshoppers. Yes, the ten plagues had their advantages. Mexicans – like the French with their frogs - made the most of their grasshoppers. It was then, while looking through my favorite passage on qiesadillas with manchego, black truffles and huitlacoche, that I suddenly noticed something new. There before me in bold text, ‘tostadas de canrejo served with lump crab meat, sea urchin and tortilla strips’. Like the beef short ribs with bone marrow that caught my eye years earlier, here was a new blessing for a new Toloache.
No matter what your religious preference, it is clear that Julian Medina remains New York’s high priest of Mexican cuisine. As the former executive chef at Maya and Pampano and the founding chef of Zocalo, he would easily have convinced conquistadors to adopt the Aztec belief system if it meant ending their meals on crepes with caramelized goat milk, marcona almonds and banana ice cream.
Leaving the Thompson street establishment, I thought to myself, if Medina was indeed building a franchise, I hope it outlasts our major world religions. As Bertold Brecht once wrote: first comes the full stomach then comes ethics. •
205 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012