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First Look: Curadero

Curadero brings Mexican street food, and drinks, to Hotel Palomar


I know people who would stomp, scream, and spittle at the fact that “Mexican street food” is the focus of the signature restaurant in Hotel Palomar, a very exquisite and artily constructed Downtown hotel. "Mexican street food in the heart of a $400 million hotel?!" they’ll scream. "That has nothing to do with the streets! Mexican street food shouldn’t cost more than $3!"

But I’m not one of those. After all, soup was once a peasant food. And the Ritz-Carlton serves all kinds of soup.

Mexican street food in a cart is some of my favorite food. But you're a tad idealistic if you think your favorite pushcart cook is buying super-green lettuce grown by a farm known for doing good work. Most of those cart chefs are buying it where they can get a decent price. Usually what street carts rely on are a killer marinade that was passed down generations, and the cook’s expert ability to cook meat to the right temp.

The risk of doing street food at a very nice, beautifully appointed hotel is whether the chefs can take those good ingredients a nice hotel affords them to purchase, and do something a little more remarkable with them. If your street taco at Hotel Palomar isn’t as good as the one at well-loved food truck, Marisco’s German, but it costs a lot more, locals are gonna light torches and learn how to use pitchforks.

But I’ll sure as hell try Curadero, for this reason. Plus, it's a Kimpton hotel. Kimpton does good, progressive work. Like using Mexican muralist Neuzz for some gigantic, color-popping wall art.

Curadero's exec chef Brad Kraten and sous chef Emiliano Najera are using top ingredients to interpret street classics, complete with a full crudo bar. Sample menu items:

DINNER: "Tiradito de Robalowith" with locally cured chorizo, finger limes, jalapeno and olive oil; "Aguachile Verde" with shrimp, cucumber, marinated red onions, and lemon oil; a classic pozole with pork broth, hominy, lettuce, radish, oregano and salsa roja; "Mejillones con Birria" with Carlsbad blue mussels in a birria broth, a goat crisp and cilantro. They've also got braised, grilled and roasted proteins, like the Grilled and Thinly Sliced Carne Asada Sirloin with chiles toreados, nopal asado, grilled onions and avocado, and Calabaza y Maiz Cazuela with roasted zucchini and corn, grilled onions, confit tomatoes sautéed mushrooms, crema and queso fresco.

BREAKFAST: "Canasta de Pan" with Mexican whipped spiced ricotta; "Chilaquiles Rojos o Verdes"; "Queso Panela Asado"; and housemade pastries with Champurrado.

The bar at Curadero has over 80 tequilas and alt-Mexican spirits, like mezcal, bacanora, and sotol. Bartender Jade Boyd has crafted a menu around the smoky spirits. Examples: "A.K.A Silvestre" with Los Javis Mezcal, sweet vermouth, fresh ginger, grapefruit and lemon juice, Bitterman’s Mole bitters and served with a scorpion lollipop. And the "First Date" with Por Siempre Sotol, prickly pear, fresh lemon juice, ginger beer, peyshaud’s bitters, and rose water mist. They'll also have bottled and draught Mexican craft beers, including a signature michelada with pickled watermelon rind, carrots, and a cricket chile salt rim.
Curadero opens today. The second-floor Arriba Room is opening this Thursday (they'll be open 9PM to 1AM Thursdays through Saturdays), with classic arcade games, foosball, shuffleboard, a walk-up taco window, Mexican beer and wine, and batched cocktails.

Curadero, 1047 Fifth Ave., Downtown.

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