The first thing that hits me when entering Tenoch for a late lunch, aside from Diana Krall crooning “Popsicle Toes” on the speaker system, is the smoky redolence of roasted Mexican peppers and slow-cooked meat. In the open kitchen, owner Rebeca Gonzalez takes a break from stacking tortillas and stirring an oversize pot to flash a broad smile. The place feels and smells like a home kitchen, as it should, considering many of the items on the menu come from family recipes Gonzalez recalls from growing up in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.
The menu: Gonzalez boasts that her restaurant, unlike some other lunchtime Mexican eateries, offers several kinds of chicken and beef, along with succulent pork among the toppings on a menu made up of standards like fish tacos ($9.50 for two with beans and rice) and burritos ($7.75) and specialty items like enchiladas ($7.75) and chilaquiles ($7.25).
What to write home about: It’s amazing what you can do with a flour tortilla, beans, rice, pico de gallo and lovingly spiced and simmered meat. My burrito with puerco en pasilla — pork slow-cooked with a pepper sauce that packs layers of flavor and subtle heat — was simple, huge and delicious. Ditto for my chilaquiles, a dish of crispy corn tortilla chips smothered with pollo en pipian — chicken that has been cooked with guajillo peppers, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and a dash of clove.
The setting: The narrow space has eight tables around the open kitchen and four stools facing the street. It’s a welcome respite from this rather blah stretch of Fifth Avenue South in the Chinatown International District. Sepia-toned pictures of Mexican icons like artist Frida Kahlo and a laid-back jazz soundtrack (at least on my visit) add a touch of elegance.
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Summing up: A burrito, order of chilaquiles and a Jarritos pineapple soda came to $15.41, plus tax and tip.
Tyrone Beason: email@example.com