Greenpoint Gazette

Foodie on Duty – La Superior

BY Alice Shin

“You want to taste the best tacos in Brooklyn?”
“Where is it?”
“In Williamsburg”
“Taco Chulo?”
“What’s that?”

Granted, it’s hardly been a month since I wrote about tacos, but the dude I was talking to was from Texas and knew the taste of stellar Mexican food. In fact, he once walked out of a restaurant in Manhattan after a single bite of its enchiladas because the sauce was too watery. I won’t name names, but it’s most definitely located on the Lower East Side.

I hate to compare restaurants, but just to give you an idea of the ambiance, La Superior is perhaps not even half the size of Taco Chulo with dim lighting bouncing off the deeply red walls. Over the speakers played a mix of reggae draped over the air was the smell of grilled meats. For a moment, I rode a deep wave of nostalgia for L.A. Coincidentally enough, that’s exactly where our server came from.

Off the bat, the tacos are about a buck or 2 cheaper than the tacos at Taco Chulo, but they are also much smaller. Each one can be eaten within 3 bites or less. This I immediately liked because I could fit more tacos in my stomach for less of a dent on my wallet.

Under the influence of gluttony, I ordered tacos de tinga de pollo, rajas, camarón al chipotle and lengua. My dinner partner and I got the soup special of the day and he ordered the pescado pibil for himself. We each got an agua fresca – lime with zest for him and pineapple for me. They were a little too watery and the not-so-tall glass was filled with mostly ice. So for 3 bucks, it wasn’t the best deal and, well… I’ve had better.

The soup itself was like a caldo – with a comforting oniony broth and crisp niblets of corn. Tender strips of nopal (cactus) lounged around in the warm bath of soup. The two tiny dishes of diced onion, Serrano chiles and cilantro was a nice touch – though my dining partner would not let me add them to the bowl.

The taco de lengua is a humbly small, warm corn tortilla that is generously topped with chopped beef tongue, cilantro and onion. It’s a dollar more than its other taco compatriots, but was well worth it based on its sheer size alone. The meat was tender and moist and the flavor was fairly basic and simple.

The taco de rajas was also fairly simple – strips of roasted Poblano peppers cooked with Mexican crema and a little bit of onion. It’s a fairly direct flavor that’s simple without any fancy bells or whistles. I could probably eat 3 or 4 of them in a single sitting. And for those worried about the heat, they aren’t spicy at all.

The tinga de pollo is topped with drippy, saucy shredded chicken with just enough spice to hit you at the back of your throat. The smokey flavor of the red sauce had me craving barbecued meats.

Of all the tacos, the pièce de résistance would be the camarón al chipotle. It’s a touch hotter in spice level than the tinga de pollo and the red chipotle sauce is thicker for it. Man, was it tasty. The sauce itself was thick and smokey and brimming over in complexity while the sautéed pieces of shrimp were cooked perfectly and were deliciously carrying just enough char from the grill. These are tacos that are definitely worth coming back for.

But the best dish of the meal was the pescado pibil – fish that has been slowly steamed over a bed of mashed plantains in banana leaves with achiote sauce and then topped with pico de gallo and some kind of pink, pickled onion of some sort. On the side is a small bowl of rice and black beans that are just a bit too salty and not worth writing home about – but the fish. It is for this fish and this dish alone that I am claiming La Superior to be the best Mexican joint in all of Williamsburg.

The fish was perfectly cooked, a delicate thing. The mashed plantains were the perfect compliment for such a heavenly specimen of fish. Lightly sweet with just a touch of tang. But to prevent the mashed plantains from weighing the fairy-light piece of fish down, there is a lofty mound of pico de gallo and thin slices of avocado to keep the dish fresh-tasting and light. To be honest, I’ve never had this Yucutan staple before. Hence, I have nothing to compare it to. But I know great food when I taste it, and this plate of steamed fish totally knocked the socks off any other Mexican dish I’ve tasted in New York.

We ended the meal with panuchos de cochinita – slow cooked pork in banana leaves and achiote served over crunchy, flat discs of corn tortillas with black beans and pickled onions. The mounds of drippy, red pork were generous and greasy in the best way possible. The pickled onions were a nice touch – but I will say that there was something missing. They were very good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I would have liked it if there was a sharper intensity of flavor.

All in all, though, I think I’ve found my spot for excellent Mexico City street food. The tacos here are generally very tasty, but I may forgo those on my next visit so that I can just chow down on 3 plates of the pescado pibil. After all, there are limitations on the capacity of the human stomach.

La Superior
295 Berry Street
718-388-5988

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Greenpoint Gazette
597 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222
phone: 718-389-6067

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