Dinner at Pelea Mexicana

Cuisine: Mexican

Atmosphere: spacious, dramatic interior

Attire: smart casual

Ideal for: small groups, 1x1

Price: moderate - all entrees under $26

Phone: 212-925-1600

Location: 33 6th Avenue (at Broadway)

Website: click *here*

Directions:  www.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

*All photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

~

As I walked through the doors of what used to be Bar Artisanal, I could not help but reflect on the French bistro fare that I enjoyed at the restaurant in the summer of 2009.  And, with its demise just one year ago, I had to wonder: Could Pelea Mexicana finally be the anchor that will hold down this frequently turned-over space?

While the skeleton of the restaurant remained intact, the interior decor seemed drastically different.

*The old*

*The new*

I'd be a liar if I told you that Pelea is more aesthetically pleasing than Bar Artisanal.  Perhaps it's just me, but this particular space seems much more akin to a French restaurant than to a Mexican eatery.  But let's be honest here: the real test of Pelea would be in its food and drink - not in its lack of fancy-pants design details.   

Upon being seated, Robin and I were greeted by our friendly server, who handed us both food and drink menus.  

It did not take long for me to decide that I wanted to kick off my evening with frozen pomegranate margarita.

While we began to peruse the dinner menu, a bountiful basket filled with warm, salty tortilla chips arrived, accompanied by a trio of homemade salsas.  Did I mention that this gesture was on-the-house?  No charge for chips 'n salsa here! 

   

To further whet our appetites, Robin and I ordered the house-made guacamole.  While flavorful and blended with all of the right elements (tomato, onion, cilantro, salt, lime juice), I found the avocados to be slightly unripened, thus creating a less creamy, more dense texture.  In order to remedy this, I added a couple of spoonfuls of salsa to the guacamole on my plate and further smashed the larger avocado chunks with my fork.

For my entree, I chose the Enchiladas Suizas, which were composed of shredded white-meat chicken, onions, and Chihuahua cheese - enveloped by soft, earthy corn tortillas and topped with a vibrant and tangy green tomatillo sauce.  The enchiladas were baked and presented in a clay, oven-proof casserole.  Black beans and a garlicky rice accompanied.

Although I told myself that I'd stop at two, I ended up eating the entire plate of enchiladas.  Yes, they were that good.

~

Conclusion  I really enjoyed my overall experience at Pelea and firmly believe that this newer Mexican restaurant is armed with some serious staying-power.  I would definitely recommend Pelea to you, dear readers.   

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