At La Esquina (106 Kenmare St.) Rene Ortiz dishes out high-end Mexican cuisine to a hip clientele. Veal tongue tacos and fancy tequilas are some of the items you’ll find on the menu.—Sascha Brodsky
Any tips for entertaining at home?
Make it simple and make it slow. Do it family style. Prepare as much as possible before people arrive. Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand. That way, you can enjoy your company and your food.
Where is your favorite place to eat in the city?
Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
A grilled cheese sandwich.
Which ingredients should everyone have in the kitchen?
If you are single, Malden salt, a bottle of Cholula, chorizo, butter and a beer. If you are a daddy, it’s best to have a banana, an avocado, organic milk, string cheese, Toasted O’s and a beer.
What makes a good meal?
Balance in flavors, a good libation or two, music and most importantly your friends and family.
What is the best meal you’ve ever had? The worst?
Best: a suckling pig belly with jellyfish and a salt-and-pepper mud crab at Golden Century in Sydney, Australia.Worst: a Texas truck stop banana split. It was made with a green banana, maraschino juice (they ran out of cherries), heavy un-whipped cream, freezer-burned ice cream, chocolate Hershey’s sauce and salted peanuts from the bar (touched by all or many patrons). I ate half.
Do you have any memorable stories from the kitchen?
Jean-Louis Palladin and Alain Ducasse walked into the kitchen at Patria, where I was chef d’cuisine at the time. Palladin came into the kitchen, lit a cigarette, smoked it and paid me a nice compliment.
What is the most common misconception about eating out?
We believe in food critics too much. We should learn to trust our own opinion and palate.
Ortiz’s Vuelva-a-la-Vida “Come Back to Life”
In this ceviche we use line-caught fish from eco-friendly waters, clams and oysters from local waters as well as local produce from New York State.
1 pound Manilla calms rinsed in cold water of all sand
1 pound shrimp cleaned, divined and cut in half length wise
1 pound mussels rinsed in cold water and debearded
½ pound sashimi grade tuna diced small
Start off by finding the highest quality seafood in your neighborhood. Place four quarts of water in a large sauce pot and season the water, so it tastes like ocean water. Poach the shrimp and remember to save the water. Remove the shrimp and place in an ice bath to cool. With the saved water still boiling, throw in the clams and allow them to open. Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams and repeat the ice bath. With water still going, add the mussels and repeat the same method with ice bath. You now have poached seafood and are ready to remove it from the ice bath and transfer it to the refrigerator mixed together.
Ceviche base “sauce”
1 ½ cups ketchup
1 cup La Morena chipotle salsa (Found in all local
1 cup lime juice
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup water
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons habanero salsa, any bottle will do the trick
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Season with salt and a touch of pepper to taste.