New York City has no shortage of great Mexican restaurants, but usually the places I have been to have drawn no particular boundaries in terms of regional influences. That’s why I have been meaning to check out Claro in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn for a long time for the restaurant’s take on food from Oaxaca in central Mexico. Could the team behind the nearby Freek’s Mill which my wife Jun and I had visited during the early days of our being together and very much enjoyed deliver another magic at Claro? I wouldn’t go as far as to say Claro is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city period, but there were some pretty interesting dishes that Jun and I sampled during our recent Friday night dinner.
Any meal at Claro needs to start with one or two tostadas. Claro’s kitchen has a knack for combining distinct ingredients often to great effects, such as the one with yellowfin accompanied by blood orange and avocado. It doesn’t have the type of spicy kick that Jun and I usually enjoy at Mexican restaurants, but the subtlety of different flavors behind this beautiful looking dish was quite stunning. The other tostada, a vegetarian version with avocado, beet and pomegranate, is probably a healthy enthusiast’s dream; I felt it didn’t have the same level of interesting quality that the yellowfin counterpart had, but Jun was very enamored with the clean flavor.
The weakest dish was the memela, a type of toasted cake made of masa topped with chorizo and queso fresco. It was surprisingly too bland for my taste despite the presence of chorizo, and I couldn’t recall anything memorable about it. On the other hand, I quickly fell in love with mole rojo with pork cheek accompanied by apple and spinach salad. The rich mole sauce on top of the pork cheek somehow worked so beautifully with the fresh cuts of apples. Jun and I gladly took these delicious ingredients into tortillas on the side and every bite was a blissful experience. For dessert, we ordered a dish with a combination of goat milk chocolate, cajeta (a type of syrup) and peanuts which was delightful to our palate.
Claro is quickly turning into a neighborhood favorite, especially after favorable reviews in recent months, and the restaurant indeed became quickly packed in the course of our dinner, so my suggestion is always to book a week or two in advance. There is full bar with a concise list of tequila and mezcal based cocktails that you would want to order to complement your meal. The warm and inviting vibe of the dining space, with careful attention to designs and decorations everywhere, is another plus to your dining experience. Claro brings another angle to the Mexican cuisine; while it is not perfect, I did sample a good number of unique dishes with cleaner favor than what I’m used to at other Mexican joints. If you feel adventurous with Mexican food and want to see what the cuisine of Oaxaca is all about, Claro is a terrific option to consider.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 284 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Telephone: (347) 721-3126