Entertainment

Exquisite Beach Vibes at Quique Crudo

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Is it spring break yet? If you’re in the mood for beach—and by the last week of March who isn’t—you might head to Quique Crudo, a tiny walk-in-only restaurant in the West Village, where the chef Cosme Aguilar is serving exquisite Mexican seafood dishes, potent cocktails, and upscale chill vibes: a vacation in one sitting. Aguilar and his brother, Luis, who grew up in Chiapas, made their name with the city’s first Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant, Casa Enrique, specializing in exceptional traditional Mexican food in Long Island City since 2012. At Quique, which the brothers opened in December, Aguilar brings some of those dishes to Manhattan while turning up the heat, the elegance, the artfulness.

One perfectly seared scallop sits atop potato hash, cashews, house-made chorizo, and chipotle aioli.

It’s clear that Aguilar values beauty and craftsmanship, from the clean design of the pristine cooking stations to the handsome ceramic and wooden serving pieces and the meticulous plating. If you sit at the main, black-quartz bar (the seats are all barstools, and the best face the long, open galley kitchen), you can watch the ballet of chefs as one of them—often Aguilar himself—crafts, say, a perfect crab tostada, piling fresh jumbo lump meat with serrano pepper, avocado crema, and copious lime juice atop a crisp tortilla. Or you can be mesmerized by someone painstakingly dropping dots of olive oil into a scallop shell, around a circle of sliced live diver scallop in a deeply savory soy-lime aguachile sauce. The menu is dominated by ceviches and aguachiles (or “chili water,” generally spicier), but there’s also a luscious peanut-studded steak-tartare tostada, and chicken enchiladas in a soulful mole that’s chocolaty, sweet, and spicy, from a family recipe. One perfectly seared scallop atop potato hash, cashews, house-made chorizo, and chipotle aioli successfully makes its case for the restraint of including only one scallop—just don’t share.

The chef Cosme Aguilar has opened Quique Crudo, twelve years after launching Long Island City’s Casa Enrique.

Shelled and poached lobster arrives on a whipped coconut-milk cloud spiked with ginger and salsa macha.

Bad Hombre, in the East Village, another of a recent spate of Mexican seafood-and-cocktail spots, serves crudos and aguachiles along with snacks such as a lovely crisp-fried-cod tostada, in a sexy underground-clublike atmosphere. But Quique is in another league—as TikTok has noticed, making weekend dinner a waiting game. One Saturday after 10 p.m., two young women, dressed for a night out, grabbed the last two bar seats and promptly ordered cucumber-laced aguachile margaritas, oysters, and lobster ceviche—the last a deceptively modest-sounding dish featuring a whole tail, both claws, and the knuckles of a poached Maine lobster, gorgeously arrayed atop a whipped coconut-milk cloud spiked with ginger and salsa macha. The women were giddy with delight over the food, and they asked Aguilar if he wanted to party. He politely demurred, and they continued their feast unbothered. All that was missing was a sea breeze, but no one seemed to mind. (Dishes $18-$49.) ♦

Festive cocktails, many with tequila, include a cucumber-laced aguachile margarita.

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