Hidden in plain sight, La Chinita Poblana on Main Street in Irvington won’t remain a secret for long. Although it sits in the location of the former Sixty One Bistro, a Tex-Mex restaurant, La Chinita Poblana has little in common with its predecessor and is becoming a go-to spot for locals in the mood for traditional Mexican flavors.
The name La Chinita Poblana comes from traditional Mexican dresses, evoking the traditional fare served. With its dark red ceiling and friendly staff, La Chinita Poblana is warm and inviting from the moment you walk in.
The menu features a mix of the standard Mexican-American cuisine that we’ve come to expect, along with authentic, richly flavored Mexican fare like grilled cactus and stuffed chiles rellenos.
Warm tortilla chips and bright, fresh tomato salsa arrive when you sit down; with chips on the table, an order of guacamole is a no brainer. Though it’s standard practice in Mexican restaurants, table-made guacamole seems a little old-fashioned. What lands at the table, however, makes you forget any judgment you may have passed. Made according to your preference for spiciness, this guacamole is perfectly seasoned. Simple additions of onion, cilantro, and lime make for a smooth guacamole that’s easy to polish off.
The menu is large, but not overwhelmingly. Plenty of options mean you’ll be able to try something new here even after multiple visits. While you look at the menu, sip on a three-chili Margarita—spicy enough to have a kick but sweet enough to keep drinking long after the meal is done.
You’ll want to order some appetizers to go with the guacamole—not because the entrées aren’t filling enough (they are), but because there are so many things on the menu you’ll want to sample. The fried calamari is crunchy and flavorful (though some of the breading wasn’t completely adhering to the squid), served with a smoky chipotle mayo dip and a mellow, somewhat flavorless green salsa. Fresh ceviche made with shrimp and red snapper is a lighter option, and the flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of lime juice make the simple seafood shine.
Cactus is an acquired taste; slimy with a crunch, it’s similar to okra in texture and flavor, and, although it makes for a beautiful chopped salad, paired with avocado and tomatoes, it was all a little too mushy.
Presentation, which is often lacking at Mexican restaurants, is at the forefront here. The crab salad appetizer is stacked high and finished off with playful shredded radish. Entrées get the same attention. Duck in a sticky, sweet mole sauce topped with sesame seeds sits artfully over some deep-fried plantains. Chili rellenos, one of the few vegetarian options, is stuffed with queso fresco (similar in flavor and texture to mozzarella) and topped with a chipotle salsa—a filling meal even meat lovers will enjoy. Carne azada, guacamole-topped steak with grilled cactus, is juicy and cooked to perfection.
Chef Juan Aguilar
Because so many of the dishes were excellent, the mariscada, a mixture of seafood including shrimp, scallops, red snapper, and mussels, was a disappointment: burnt garlic bread paired with a fishy-tasting stew that lacked personality. Perhaps we can blame the bitterly cold winter for the shellfish shortage on the East Coast, but the kitchen could have switched up the dish to include only the freshest seafood.
Even if it’s a struggle, order dessert. Flan is sugary sweet and perfectly prepared. Crunchy churros are a treat unadorned; chocolate and vanilla sauces take them to the next level.
The waiters are friendly, attentive, and happy to explain items on the menu. It seems like the menu doesn’t change depending on the season, leaving it up to the customer to order dishes that contain flavorful, in-season food.
Although reservations are accepted, you likely won’t need to make one. I found from asking around that many of the locals haven’t realized yet that it’s no longer the overpriced, hit-or-miss restaurant that used to live at the location. A web search shows (incorrectly) that the old restaurant is still open for business.
Enjoy La Chinita Poblana as your own private dining room until the rest of Westchester discovers one of the county’s better Mexican restaurants.
La Chinita Poblana
61 Main St, Irvington