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The Black Ant: Adventurous Mexican Food

            One of the newest additions to the East Village food scene is The Black Ant, an innovative and contemporary Mexican restaurant.  Indeed, the Black Ant should be a destination for New York foodies because both the food and cocktails are fantastic.

            The bold and contemporary décor echoes the name of the restaurant.  The walls are painted black and adorned with white painted ants throughout.  While it is dark, the neat contrast of the white and black on the walls combined with their use of bright plate colors makes for a visually stimulating dining atmosphere.

            Once settled in the dining room, it’s time for one of The Black Ant’s signature cocktails.  When I went with a friend recently, we both ordered the mezcal negroni, which was delicious.  I first had that drink at a mezcal tasting, and The Black Ant did not disappoint with the quality of their cocktail.  The cocktail menu is impressive; they have the traditional margarita for the not so adventurous, but those willing to trust the bartender will find an array of exciting and delicious options.

            The food menu is certainly innovative, and caters to foodies and adventurous eaters.  While there are more conservative options, diners should go to The Black Ant with an open mind ready for the chefs to push their conception of Mexican cuisine. The most fun way to experience The Black Ant is to get a number of small dishes and share them, tapas style, so everyone can taste the unique dishes.

            We started with the Black Ant Guacamole, a traditional guacamole dish with some tasty Black Ant additions.  On top of the guacamole they added grilled scallions, corn nuts, and chopped orange.  This combination of flavors was incredible.  The corn nuts added a nice crunch to the texture and the citrus of the orange added a nice sweetness while simultaneously balancing the saltiness.  These innovative additions made a traditional guacamole not only more interesting, but more delicious.

            There are a variety of small dishes ranging from the relatively tame yellowtail ceviche to the incredibly bold and adventurous crunchy tortilla topped with fried grasshoppers.  We were not adventurous enough for the grasshoppers, but did try the ceviche.  The dish, served with light, crunchy crackers, was deliciously salty and full of sour citrus, yet nicely balanced by the soft and creamy yellowtail.  Both the mixture of texture and intricate flavors made the dish a standout.  We also decided to try the interesting sounding Huarache de Nopal, a sort of open-faced taco with grilled cactus pad, black mission figs, asadero cheese, and pilonsillo chilhuacle marmalade.  While I cannot remember ever having cactus before, the Black Ant delightfully surprised us with a neatly sweet and savory dish.  The combination of the cactus, fig, and cheese was delightful. However, I could have used even more of the fig flavor in the dish because I loved it and the small amount got lost in the rest of the dish.

            Our final dinner entrée was the Tacos de Cocochas, which were Cod cheeks, Baja style mango slaw, and guacamaya salsa with garlic aioli.  Again The Black Ant created a new take on a traditional dish, in this case fish tacos.  We were pleasantly surprised to find the cod fried, but not overly so.  Fish tacos are often overpowered by the fried flavor, but The Black Ant again proved their mastery of modern Mexican cuisine - the fish was fried to perfection.  The fresh mango slaw instead of the traditional cabbage was a great idea and worked beautifully with spicy garlic aioli.  These flavors all worked well with a true corn tortilla, which also added a nice flavor to the dish.  All around, The Black Ant’s version of fish tacos was a supreme success.

            After dinner we decided to keep the culinary adventure rolling and tried the Churros Fondue.  Instead of full size churros, The Black Ant created small, bite-size churros with three separate dipping sauces. There was the house made cajeta, a type of condensed milk caramel, the queso fresco with orange blossom, and the choco sauce, a creamy chocolate dip.  Not only was this dessert interesting with the mini churros, but the possibility for choice with sauce and the ability to mix and match flavors made the dessert interactive and fun.  At this point, I had also moved on to my second cocktail, La Santa Hormiga, which consisted of mezcal, cointreau, hoja santa, cucumber, a chartreuse rinse, and grapefruit bitters.  This cocktail tasted like fresh melon, I honestly could have had one after another all night.  The fruity flavor actually matched very well with the churros, the sweet yet tart cocktail balanced the rich dessert.

            The Black Ant is a fantastic addition to an impressive culinary scene in the East Village, foodies and Mexican food lovers should seek out this restaurant. The Black Ant expands diners’ culinary repertoire, it pushes the limits of Mexican cuisine, and it makes guests rethink traditional Mexican staples.  When combined with their impressive, creative, and delicious cocktails, The Black Ant is a must-try in the East Village.  If you find yourself in the area, check it out, and if you are not in the area, make a reservation and make a point to go.

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