The Black Ant, opening tonight in the East Village, doesn’t look much like any other Mexican restaurant in town, and that’s the way the owner likes it. “Our inspiration is Salvador Dali and Buñuel,” explains Jorge Guzman, who is Dominican but has spent time in Mexico. “All Mexican restaurants go with the same old ideas — it’s what they know. But we wanted something different. And you know, Mexico is so surreal.”
Hence the noir-esque black-ant motif, the proliferation of skulls, the strips of leaves embedded in the walls, the geometrically patterned upholstery, and the psychedelic ant mural on the back wall. (Click through our slideshow to see them all.)
As we mentioned back in March, Guzman also runs Ofrenda in the West Village, but for his East Village eatery, he’s offering risqué ingredients like the eponymous ants, or chicatanas. “You can catch them only once a year, because they only come out at certain times,” he says. “We get them in dehydrated, and we plan to use them all year round. We bring them through customs! It’s crazy!” The critters will be sprinkled on guacamole, and used to salt the rim of margaritas.
They’re not the only unorthodox items on the menu. Chef Mario Hernandez, a former sous chef at La Esquina, will also be serving up chapulines (grasshoppers), as well as unusual riffs on classic dishes, like the grilled cactus and fig salad and the tostada made with chia seed. “This neighborhood is very hip and up-and-coming, so I think it’s great for this” says Jorge, adding that he might not have put such items on the menu had the restaurant been in the West Village. “Here, people are adventurous, they want to try new things.”
The Black Ant, 60 Second Ave., bet. East 3rd and 4th Sts., East Village
Correction: The original version of this post was revised because it misidentified Ofrenda as La Ofrenda.