Arriba! Arriba! Viva La Lucha – Sacalo del Ring (loosely translated to taking the fight out of the ring)!!
Nestled in the heart of the East Village is La Lucha. Think Mexico City street food meets Mexican wrestling, meets the East Village, all set in a seriously funky restaurant.
Fork and Shish Kabob Stick were in the East Village to see Dr. Brendan, the iPhone/iPod/iTouch doctor extraordinaire when we realized we were very hungry. Where to go? Where to go? Pizza? The Stick didn’t want pizza. Fork suddenly remembered reading about La Lucha, so we decided to give it a whirl.
La Lucha is very small. Seven tables of two. The banquettes are covered in a metallic, hot pink. The decor is Mexican wrestling themed. There are little Mexican wrestling figures on the walls, wrestling masks (mascaras) everywhere, Lucha wrestling memorabilia, bright colors, photos of Lucha wrestlers, and Mexican wrestling film playing on the walls from a projector. Great music. The place is seriously fun. Place reminded Fork – and you will see just how much tarnish is on the tines by this reference – of an old David Johansen (think New York Dollls) song – Funky But Chic.
The menu is relatively small, but packed with flavor. There are two salsas on the table, one a fresh tomato salsa and the other pasilla salsa. Both were very good. The pasilla salsa – made from chipolte peppers and tomatillos – had a very nice kick. The tortilla chips they brought to the table were freshly fried and most likely made from hand-made tortillas. They aren’t the usual thick fried tortillas you get in the average Mexican restaurant – which isn’t Mexican at all, but TexMex. But this is nowhere near average Mexican restaurant fare that most people in the New York expect. It’s Mexico City street food brought inside. This is the type of food that cutlery in Mexico City eat before going to La Lucha.
They also have Shish Kebab Stick’s favorite soft drink Jarritos – an added bonus. At the time of this writing they didn’t have a liquor license for beer and wine, you can bring your own, and they were waiting for their license to come very soon.
There are a number of Botanitas, small dishes, to share. Naturally, we started with these. By the way, most of the dishes are named after famous Mexican La Lucha wrestling moves or famous La Lucha wrestlers.
First we had the El Martinete (sort of like a pile driver wrestling move). Two taquitos – about 4″ in diameter – filled with fresh, thick refried beans and sprinkled with cilantro and cotija cheese. Added to the top is a plantain. We looked at each other and weren’t quite sure how the sweetness of the plantain would match against the acidic cheese and refried beans, but it really added a nice layer of flavor to the tacquito. The sweetness cut through the richness of the beans and the slightly sour flavor of the cotija. You actually were disappointed by there not being more plantain.
Our second dish to share was the Hurricanrana (a head scissor-like aerial takedown). This is also known as a chicarron de queso. Fried cheese. Again, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Perhaps something along the lines of a mozzarella stick or maybe saganaki. What arrived was actually quite wonderful. It was like a giant frico, but made with what Fork assumes was queso fresco. Think of making a grilled cheese or a cheese burger and the much fought after melty bits of cheese that get left behind in the pan. Imagine a 10″ tube of it! My oh my! A little bit of the salsas on top and you have a very happy Fork.
Next came Super Porky. Super Porky is an infamous La Lucha and cross over WWE wrestler. The Super Porky was nearly a regular sized tortilla. These fabulous tacos were filled with carnitas of pulled pork, pickled onions, lots of lime, and cilantro. The flavor of the pork was incredible. Lots of lime squeezed over. Yummy pickled onions. Boy, oh boy, you could have eaten a lot of these! Carnitas is a type of roasted or braised meat, usually a boston butt of picnic shoulder cut. Just before serving it is shredded and then cooked at a very high heat to make it crispy. You have this mixture of softness and crispiness in every bite.
And last, but not least, we ordered Voladoras – another wrestling move. These were explained as quessadillas, but these are not a TexMex style of quesadilla. They actually look more like an Indian samosa. These are a corn outer shell, inside is gooey melted cheese. There is a white sauce drizzled over the top and queso fresco. These were really good. Who says change isn’t a good thing? As a piece of cutlery Fork knows so well would say ‘viva le difference!’
The food here is amazing. There are special taco plates that need exploring. There is a brunch menu that looks like it must be tried. A little pricey? Yes. Worth every penny? Yup. Between the decor and the food, it’s impossible to leave La Lucha without a smile on your face.
Thought the fun was over? Nope. When you ask for the check, what arrives is a miniature Lucha wrestling ring and a small La Lucha mascara (mask). Tucked inside the mascara is the bill. Little packages of Canel Mexican chewing gum are scattered over the ring.