Pampano Taqueria is the taco-stand little brother of the expensive Pampano. If you’re not familiar with Pampano, it’s a high-end Mexican restaurant owned by Placido Domingo and chef Richard Sandoval. Operated in a soulless food court in midtown Manhattan, the place is only open from 11-3 and draws a big corporate crowd. And no wonder: with tacos priced at $2.50 (even some hole in the walls are now charging $3 per taco), it’s an inexpensive quasi-gourmet lunch. Or at least in theory.
I ordered two tacos, a grilled chicken and a carne asada. These seemed the most authentic on a taco menu filled with flour tortillas stuffed with grilled fish. And it’s the first place I’ve encountered that makes fresh corn tortillas. So what should have been a near-perfect experience was severely disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t bad tacos, they just weren’t sublime. And maybe my expectations were set too high. But the quality of the meat was mediocre: there was nothing grilled about the boiled white chicken cubes, and the steak, while tender wasn’t very flavorful. And they only give you one tortilla instead of the traditional two. So even though the homemade tortillas are tasty, one is not enough to contain the filling; I had to eat my tacos with a fork. The condiment bar, however, was amazing—they had huge molajetes filled with onions, cilantro, tomatoes, limes, pico de gallo, and three types of salsa—a mild tomatillo/avocado, a medium tomato and a hot (but not too fiery) habanero. All three are good, with the habanero being the most satisfying. And each order comes with a small bag of crisp, homemade chips--a nice touch.
If you’re stuck in east midtown then I recommend giving Pampano Taqueria a try, but it’s certainly not a destination. A shame, yes, but with the already huge crowds Pampano probably doesn't feel any pressure to try harder.
Recommendation: Nothing's bad, it's just not amazing. But the free chips and salsas are a real treat.
Location: Midtown Manhattan, 805 3rd Ave, between 49th and 50th in the basement food court
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Posted by Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) at 2:35 PM