“To stand out, we don’t want to be the same as other Mexican restaurants,” says owner/chef Enrique Estrada, who, along with wife Consuelo, opened the 50-seat La Catrina in December of 2021. “Mexico can be a bit more elegant than many know about. You won’t see sombreros or Mexican flags here.” The couple grew up in Mexico City, a cosmopolitan dining scene of international flavors and techniques, and the food concept at La Catrina is inspired by the country’s 22-million-person capital. It’s modern Mexican: traditional flavors combined with Asian and Latin elements and top ingredients like Prime meats, free-range chicken, and fresh herbs and vegetables.
“Our original idea was to work a few years in the U.S. and then open in Mexico City,” says Estrada. “But the money and experience made it worth it to stay instead.” Estrada came to the U.S. in 1993 at 19 years old; he lived in Yonkers and worked in Dobbs Ferry at the now-defunct Off Broadway Restaurant as a dishwasher. He later gained valuable industry experience as a line cook at Hastings’ Harvest on Hudson; he was eventually promoted to sous chef by chef Vincent Barcelona whom he considers a cherished mentor. “He expanded my mind to different techniques and cuisines.”
Later jobs included executive chef at Half Moon Restaurant in Dobbs Ferry and executive chef at X2O Xaviars on the Hudson in Yonkers. “The legendary chef Peter Kelly taught me, among other things, to always respect guests.” Chorizo is made in-house, as are two kinds of mole (poblano and Oaxaca, served in one excellent dish, Prime beef short rib in two moles), and the velvety ice cream.
Shrimp and octopus ceviche, Asian duck tacos served on crisp wonton shells, and the molcajete Catrina (grilled shrimp and meats in a red adobo sauce) are must-orders. The mantra of better ingredients extends to the beverage program: Organic blue agave is used instead of simple syrup; fresh fruit purées augment the margaritas; premium tequilas like El Jimador and Milagro line the back bar.
“Give the best to people and the people come back,” says Estrada.
Myriad handicrafts, made in Mexico specially for the couple by artisans and painted by hand, add color and warmth to the room. The soup bowl is a figure of a Catrina doll (shown in background in top photo); soups such as shredded chicken and crispy tortilla are poured at the table.
“We want to show Mexican food is not just tacos and quesadillas,” says Estrada, “Also to display our passion for Mexican gastronomy and culture.”
171 Grand St, Croton-on-Hudson; 914.862.0573; lacatrinaw.com
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