The King of New Mexican Cuisine

He’s plating octopus tendrils and duck carnitas at his New York restaurant, and it’s delicioso. 

At New York’s Cosme, a single scoop of buttermilk sorbet is served atop a bright-green cucumber juice, as an off-menu palate cleanser.  It follows the garlic-rubbed steak taco and precedes the corn-husk meringue. After a bite, the din of the 115-seat space quiets, the challenge of getting in fades, and one is left alone in a vegetable patch far, far away.

That’s the mind-bending, taste-exploding talent of chef Enrique Olvera. The bearded 39-year-old is to New York’s foodies what Moses is to the Israelites. Since he opened his high-end, 44-seat tasting menu spot, Pujol, in 2000, Olvera has taken Mexican cuisine to ever-more incandescent levels. But at Cosme, the chef jettisons fine dining in favor of fun and a damn good duck carnita. (It better be good—it takes four days to prepare.) “I wanted to come to New York and have a good time and not be stressed out that the napkin is two centimeters too far from the plate,” he explains.

You won’t find fussiness on the menu, but the 18-odd offerings are executed as imaginatively

as a “Game of Thrones” story arc: A lone, perfectly charred octopus tendril curls on a plate of hazelnut mole; uni (or sea urchin)—a midcentury tone of orange—is piled high on a purple tostada; cobia, a white fish, stands in for pork in a taco al pastor and puts the pig to shame. It’s not quite Mexican, and it’s certainly not American, but it is cosmically right.

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Photos by AnaÏs & Dax