The East Village and Lower East Side have an abundance of nouveau Mexican restaurants. Some of them, like Empellón Cocina, are hits that spawn knockoffs like Empellon Al Pastor, and others not so much. Still, people keep opening these places.
The latest is due to open in February — and though La Contenta is named after a cantina from Easy Rider, it comes not from some American cowboy looking to show us everything he learned during his vacation in Oaxaca, but rather from a couple of real-deal Mexicans: chef-owner Luis Arce Mota is a Mazatlan native who previously opened West Village spots Cafe Condesa and Ofrenda, and his mixologist and partner Alex Valencia (previously of Yerba Buena’s East and West Village locations) hails from Jalisco. The food menu incorporates various chiles (green chile, chile de arbol, etc.) and the drinks list showcases tequila alternatives like sotol, bacanora and raicilla. There’s even pulque, the frothy fermented-maguey drink that once made Anthony Bourdain puke. Good luck!
Make no mistake: this place isn’t trying to reproduce a hole-in-the-wall taqueria. Plates like the tostada de cangrejo reflect Mota’s French training with ingredients like celery root puree. And you can top your guac with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds. Check out the dinner, bar and brunch menus here, and the cocktail menu here.
Entrees range from $18 to $24, but if you want to kick in a bit more, they’re currently trying to raise money via Kickstarter. Their pitch is below.
La Contenta, 102 Norfolk St., nr. Delancey, Lower East Side; 212-432-4180