New York is a rough town for newbies—whether it’s bright-eyed hopefuls yearning for a Swiftian utopia that doesn’t exist or an out-of-town chef who’s proven his culinary clout in the global arena, only to be chewed up and spat out by Gotham’s surly dining public. This city has devoured the best of them: Spain’s Dani García, Toronto’s Susur Lee and, most glaringly, France’s Alain Ducasse.
Enter Enrique Olvera, the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpet-bagging comrades. Instead, the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened.
That’s because this is the Mexican restaurant New York has been missing. Olvera’s elegant, high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and as market-fresh as anything coming out of Thomas Keller’s kitchen—more than fills that gap in New York dining. It steamrolls right over it.
Tacos make a solitary appearance on the menu, in an atypically generous portion of duck carnitas ($49), cooked to the sinful midpoint of unctuous fat and seared flesh. But Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, from a complimentary starter of crackly blue-corn tortillas with chile-kicked pumpkin-seed butter to dense, crispy tostadas ($17) dabbed with bone-marrow salsa and creamy tongues of uni.
Those soft corn rounds accompany the cobia al pastor ($23), a beautifully toned-down take on the original, with slips of delicate white fish whispered with pasilla, guajillo and tart pineapple sauce. And they’re there to cradle supple, roasted hunks of lobster pipil ($25), nestled in a heady pool of black-bean–chorizo puree.
But it’s that face-melting, savory-sweet, Instagrammed-to-death husk meringue ($14), with its fine, ash-dusted hull giving way to a velvety, supercharged corn mousse, that cements Olvera’s status as not only one of the country’s premier haute-Mex ambassadors but also the corn whisperer of New York dining. And what damn fine dining it is.