If there’s one take-away from this review it’s that you should stop reading now and make a reservation at Xixa regardless of any of my criticisms. You’ll be blown away by the same mastery of flavors and texture you’ve come to expect from sister spot Traif just a few doors down. Whether shunning kosher at Traif or embracing Mexican at Xixa, Chef Jason Marcus casts a large shadow over the Williamsburg culinary scene.
Last year while ringing in another new year at Traif I wondered what might be happening at Xixa. This year Kim and I decided to break tradition. I don’t regret it for a second, although, truth be told, New Year’s Eve may not be the best time to truly experience any restaurant.
We had reservations at the bar, which is my usual preference. Our Bartender steered me in the right direction. The Bourbon Tequila with Old Fashioned ice cube was my favorite cocktail of the year. I order another.
“How much you wanna bet they don’t know we’re here for dinner,” Kim says after 40 minutes drinking.
“They gotta know. We gave our name at the door. And we sent them an email with our La Famiglia choice last week.”
We shake on it.
I order another Bourbon Tequila. “And you guys know we’re getting food, right?”
“Oh, no. I thought you were just here for drinks.”
I hand my girl three singles.
After some apologies, the dishes come out quickly. Too quickly. Three right away, with loose explanations made in haste. I like to hear what’s in each dish before I dig in. Managing expectations is all part of service.
We start with the Mexico City style sauteed Edamame with chili and jícama. Was it the best Edamame I’ve ever had? Sho ’nuff!! Should I have eaten it before the subtly flavored Mahi-Mahi? Probably not.
I took a few breaths and dug into the Mahi-Mahi and Guacamole dishes. Delectable, soft and fresh. Peppers, hummus, vegetables, tortillas made of cheese, others made of corn, all competing for the spotlight. “A first world problem,” I thought to myself, dragging an index finger through that fiery Edamame sauce.
“This drink is kicking my ass,” Kim says.
“Good. Me too. Can I get one more of these?”
“This round is on us for making you wait,” Bartender says.
Next up, the Salmon Sopes. I don’t normally dig salmon, but these were delicious. Not sure of the entire composition as they were placed without much of an explanation. At this point they were still trying to catch us up. Delicious anyway, for sure, albiet something of a larger amuse-bouche. I could eat nine of them.
The Foie Gras with Roasted Pineapple, torrejas, costeno honey, chipotle-pineapple reminded us why Jason should be Knighted. Even better than the amazing foie dish at Traif. I lifted the ingredients from their website because, again, I’m not sure that info was conveyed.
“Maybe you should have answered that ad after all,” Kim says, referencing a help-wanted Traif and Xixa placed some months ago for someone to manage both spots. I was THIS close to responding but felt under-qualified.
Half in the bag at this point, I had no idea what spices were in that Grilled Corn, but knew I could sink my teeth into them forever. The Seafood Pozole with lobster and squid was equally delicious, with a side of submersibles like crispy tortilla chips.
When tortillas with dipping sauces and cheese hit the table, I wasn’t sure if it was a stand alone dish or part of the La Famiglia tacos, the main dish of the night. As instructed, we emailed our choice of Confit Short Ribs a week in advance, though we were close to trying the Crispy Goat Neck.
Should I dig into this plate or wait for the short ribs? This stuff seemed like it would go with tacos. So we waited. Then I asked if this went with the La Famiglia and two servers said yes. By now midnight had come and gone and many folks were leaving the place. I think we reminded one other person about the short ribs and they eventually made their way to the table. In retrospect, I think the previous plate may have been stand alone. I hope so, I ate most of it waiting for the short ribs.
Kim and I looked at each other and pretended to type on the bartop, mimicking, as we sometimes do, asshole hipsters complaining on Yelp.
When the confit short ribs finally arrived the heavens cracked open and blessed two foodies at the bar. We cut into the super crispy surface, through an unctuous layer of fat, into succulent beef we then wrapped in soft (beet?) taco shells sprinkled with corn and lime. Of course the sauces provided were worth bottling, like those at Traif. It was the dictionary definition of umami. Halfway through we were full and got the rest to go. It was excellent the next day.
Two desserts followed. Nothing as Earth shattering as some I’ve had on non-holidays at Traif, but sweet and delectable in their own right. A soft and luscious Strawberry Flan was followed by Churros with two dipping sauces, one citrus and the other a sinful dark chocolate. Scrummy.
We paid the bill and lamented that restaurants are not at their best on holidays. Balancing altered menus with large crowds results in sacrifices here and there. Yet, I don’t see myself changing up this tradition, and in particular I can’t wait to get back to Xixa on a boring weeknight when I’m more likely to get the full attention my fat ass desires.