Cosme opened in October 2014 in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. It is the creation of Enrique Olvera, a Mexican chef whose Pujol in Mexico City is currently rated 20 in the world on the controversial World’s Top 50 list. The room has a bar at the front with an extensive dining room beyond, the tables fairly well spaced, and with quite clever directed lighting that illuminates each table well, even though the room appears to have quite low lighting levels as you walk in.
The menu is a long list of “sharing” dishes mostly just below the $30 mark, and two to three dishes per person were suggested to be about the right amount by the waiter, though the duck carnitas is to share and indeed turned out to be very large indeed. The wine list was particularly strong on Spanish labels, with some quite old vintages and an excellent choice of growers. Examples were Domaine Alexandre Bain Pouilly Fume Pierre Precieuse 2014 at $58 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for $30, the lovely Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva at $112 compared to its retail price of $53, Daniel Landi La Mujer Canon 2010 at $172 for a wine that will set you back $74 in a shop. Vintage Tondonia Gran Reserva went back as far as 1980, priced at $490 for a bottle whose current market value is $233.
A trio of scallops came with avocado aioli and slices of jicama, a root vegetable that is starchy with a hint of sweetness, rather like a savoury version of an apple. Here the slices were prepared so that they were still slightly crunchy, and were an interesting foil for the avocado and the slight inherent sweetness of the scallops. The latter were quite small and did not have a lot of flavour. They were properly cooked but I suspect they were frozen, and the main flavour came from the avocado (13/20). Lobster was prepared with shiso (perilla), brown butter and ginger mojo (a kind of citrus ketchup particularly popular in Cuba). The shellfish meat was tender, the grassy perilla a logical accompaniment, and this was certainly quite enjoyable (13/20). Broccoli tamal came with goat ricotta, rocket and “wasabi” that looked and tasted like horseradish root. This was decent enough, the broccoli cooked fine, but there needed to be more spicy kick to it (12/20).
Chanterelle huarache had a base of fried masa corn dough, and came with fava bean salsa, black lime and epazote (aka wormseed), a Mexican herb. The base had pleasant texture, and the mushrooms were nicely cooked, though again for me the salsa lacked enough bite (13/20).
Corn tempura soft-shell crab was cooked with tomatoes and shishito (a mild pepper) mole. the crab avoided greasiness and the mild mole sauce was a pleasant accompaniment (13/20). A signature dish of the restaurant is duck carnitas with onions, radishes and coriander, along with a generous stack of little tortillas. The latter are apparently made from scratch in the kitchen, and were certainly much better than most. The duck, which in this case is a breed called Rohan, is initially cured with salt and hung for three days, seared, then sautéed with onions, tomatoes, garlic and ancho chillies along with orange, milk and coke, covered in duck fat and cooked an oven overnight until the meat is falling off the bone. It is, finally, garnished and served, so is quite an elaborate dish. This was the best dish of the evening, the meat very tender and the tortillas excellent (14/20).
Corn husk meringue with corn mousse was harmless but did not have much flavour (12/20), but was still much better than a disappointing ginger flan with gooseberry salsa, amaranth and caramel. The flan was tasteless, topped with sugary jam with no obvious ginger flavour, surrounded by a watery syrup and a crisp that was not crisp stuck into the flan (9/20). Service was efficient enough though it could not be described as warm and cuddly, and the bill came to $153 (£118) per head with a bottle of Rioja Alta 904 and a couple of glasses of wine between three. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head might be £105. This seemed to me altogether too much money for the level of food that appeared. Although the duck was nice, the food here generally lacked spice and was pleasant but fairly ordinary. It is not even close to the standard of, say, Punto MX in Madrid. I have not eaten at Pujol so cannot compare, but Cosme is not much of an advert for it.