The Black Ant- Inventive Mexican Cuisine in the Trendy East Village
By Jennifer Shanteau
I love The Black Ant. I mean, I love it! So much so, that I tried to hold my birthday party at this trendy East Village hot spot this past year. Even though I called a month early, they were booked! So, apparently, my love for The Black Ant is shared. There are several reasons for my adoration. Besides being a hip spot in the trendy East Village, with amazing food and stellar drinks, The Black Ant is inventive. I’ve never seen a menu like theirs. I’m never bored when I come here. Oh, did I mention they have a new menu? Yeah….and you’re not going to believe what’s on it!
We started out the evening at The Black Ant as any sane New Yorker would, with cocktails. Even their festive beverages are creative. Of course, I wanted to try everything new on the menu, so we began with the Oaxcan Sunset, (Buen Bicho mezcal, red wine, lemon, agave and orange bitters), and what turned out to be my favorite of the evening, the Mexican Clover, (Espolon resposado tequila, Suze, jalapeno agave, lime, cilantro and a taijin rim). The Oaxacan Sunset was light and refreshing, a great drink for a hot day. The Mexican Clover was…….well….heaven. It was just the perfect amount of everything. It wasn’t too sweet, or too sour, or too weak, and I love the taijin rim! Everyone has their drink, and tonight, this was mine.
Don’t come here and skip the Guacamole. Don’t you dare. It is my favorite Guac in all of NYC. I could make a meal out of just this. The chips were so light and crisp, but when I noted they stuck a spoon in the bowl, I wondered if they were giving me the “ok” to just shovel it directly into my mouth.
Another new addition to the menu was the Callo de Acha (scallops, pied de cochon, honeydew, prickly pear and chile piquin). You just read that, and still have no idea what this could possibly taste like, do you? See? I told you. Your mouth cannot be bored here. It’s not only an experience, but an education. The scallops were cool and light, and melted in your mouth. The sauce that accompanied it was a marriage of sweet and tart, with a kick from the chile seasoning on top…..amazing.
Since we came to try the new menu, we couldn’t leave without trying the other two new beverage options. That just wouldn’t be right! Besides, the first one was so delicious, I sucked that thing down fast! If you like a little kick to your cocktail, the Spicy Bootleg (Buen Bicho mezcal joven, ginger beer, Chartreuse, cucumber syrup and lime) is for you. If you are on the whiskey wagon like so many others these days, order yourself an El Manhattan (Buen Bicho mezcal joven, Mexican corn whiskey and Grand Marnier).
Enchiladas are something I just cannot live without. I order them with mole, with verde, with cheese, with chicken….just about any way they will serve them to me. Never have I ever…….(played that game?), eaten them with rabbit! Yes, rabbits are cute, but they’re also yummy! The Enchiladas de Conejo (rabbit entomatado, corn tortilla, and chilhuacle salsa) is something you won’t forget.
Another favorite of mine? Fish tacos! I don’t even know how many times a year I eat them. I seek them out, and even make them at home. I always love them, and never tire of them. So, it’s safe to say, I was into these. Wouldn’t you be into Baja-style cod fish tacos topped with hibiscus slaw and chile de arbol, served with spicy aioli? Oh yes, you would.
I don’t typically order vegetables as an entree, but I felt it was bold to offer it as such, and because of that, I was intrigued. I mean, they have to be pretty darn good, right? I do have a lot of vegetarian friends, and it would be great to be able to recommend something to them, after all. How did it stand up? The mole verde was so scrumptous, not a drop was left on this plate. The asparagus, bok choy, sun chokes and romanesco were all cooked perfectly, and as such, were a great vehicle to sop up all of this delectable sauce.
After being a good girl and eating my veggies, I felt I earned some dessert, and after a few glasses of liquid courage, I was brave enough to try Chapulin Ice Cream. Nope, that’s a big, fat lie. While I was busy consuming the Passion Fruit Parfait, my dining companion either ate, or mixed in those little chapulins, because I didn’t notice any insects on my spoon of cake and ice cream. There were some crunchy bits in the ice cream I noticed right away, but in a wonderful, surprising way. They tasted a little spicy and salty, which complimented the sweet Banana Cake wonderfully. So, before I knew it, I was taking a second and a third bite of that Chapulin Ice Cream. Yes, I’m as shocked as you are. Grasshoppers…..scary in person, but delicious in ice cream. Who knew?
While I feel so proud of myself for accidentally trying and liking Chapulin Ice Cream, I have to admit I was initially more drawn to the Passion Fruit Parfait. I mean, look at it. It’s gorgeous! It was light, refreshing, bright, fruity and creamy all at the same time. I had no trouble devouring this dish, even after stuffing myself with everything else that was placed before me.
If after reading this, you aren’t salivating, you’re dead inside. Just writing this makes me want to head straight there….right now. If you feel the same, do just that the next time you want to consume some seriously delicious food and drinks. Not only will your belly be satiated, but your brain will be stimulated by the sheer ingenuity of it all. Oh, and don’t book reservations on my birthday. I’m still trying to make that happen.