There are few restaurant spaces with more turnover than the Fifth and President spot currently occupied by Comida Mercado Fresco.
In the past few years alone, the space has housed La Playa, Lookout Hill, BiBi's, and Biscuit BBQ, prompting many to label it a cursed venue. When Comida opened, then, the question became: could it break the curse?
Well, it isn't the 2004 Red Sox, that's for sure.
Comida makes a favorable first impression. The lighting is dim and welcoming, primarily thanks to a host of flickering candles. The back wall is dominated by a Diego Rivera-esque mural and the furniture is pleasantly sturdy. A dining companion arriving just five minutes early was quickly served and already slurping a margarita upon arrival. Service was swift. Waiters polite.
Unfortunately, this may have been the best of the Comida experience.
Dining at Comida is, in a word, strange: the restaurant isn't large, but it's sparsely furnished and seemingly infrequently visited, lending the space an oddly cavernous feeling. Comida just opened last month, but it already feels a little like a ghost town.
Though service was great, and extremely attentive, it is hard to shake the idea that something just isn't right here. Usually one such upscale, purportedly authentic Mexican spot in Park Slope would be mobbed—just look at Fonda, or even Tacos Nuevo Mexico on any evening after seven.
But in the mystery of Comida's empty dining room, the quality of food may shed some light.
A starter of Buñuelos De Coliflor Y Salsa Verde (cauliflower fritters in salsa verde) is frankly excellent: meltingly tender discs of fried pureed cauliflower in a sauce with just a kick of heat. Ultra-creamy queso cabra is crumbled on top, elevating the dish to a harmonious planes of salty/spicy/creamy deliciousness.
The same , however, could not be said for the Calamares Fritos Con Dos Salsas, fried calamari with Yucatan chile de arbol salsa and tomatillo avocado salsa. The salsas were fine, if unremarkable, and oddly smooth, but it seems prudent to issue caution for the calamari. It was overcooked, chewy, and coated in too much batter — everything one typically strives to avoid in calamari.
As the meal progresses, the food does not. An order of Cochinita Pibil Y Salsa Xnipec (pulled pork with habanero chili, picked red onion salsa, and guacamole) tacos was nice and spicy, but once again fell victim to seemingly habitual overcooking.
Where the pork should have been fork-tender, it was thick and chewy. Better to go with the Pollo Comida tacos, made with Comida's signature Yucatan barbecue chicken and a chili and pickled red onion salsa. Here at last was the tender meat that a taco should have. Pliant and spicy, this was a lovely bite.
Tacos come by themselves or, for $8 more, as a plate with two sides. It is advisable to save your money here—cactus fries sounded fun, but in reality, were sticks of slime surrounded by breading, bringing to mind the unpleasant image of fried aloe vera. A dish of Elote Con Queso, or corn with crumbled cotija cheese and toasted cumin, tasted like canned corn dressed up with an extra shake of bland.
Generally speaking, dessert can save a meal. Not at Comida. Though the bourbon pecan ice cream in the an apple turnover with ice cream christened the Buñuelo De Manzana Y Helado was delectable (if not especially Mexican), the apple turnover prompted a moment of stunned silence.
That's usually a good thing: a sign the eater is in such rapture that words just don't form. Not, however, in this case, where the silence was followed by utterances of extreme disatisfaction. Would you be shocked to learn that it was doughy, chewy, and overcooked? At this point, you shouldn't be.
At Comida, the saving grace came not in the form of sugary treats, but in the margaritas. Comida's margaritas are potent, delicious, and come in a wide variety of flavors, from classic to hibiscus or blackberry.
Though the dining area is often empty, the bar is less so.
Happy hour, you see, is only at the bar. And if you do venture to Comida, you should be, too.