Cuishe offers a variety of street tacos, including a trompo with puerco al pastor.
Relative St. Paul Square newcomer Cuishe Cocina Mexicana is housed in a handsome space bounded by bare brick and accented by agave art, basketry lighting, patterned tile floors and a slatted, wood ceiling.
The overall feel of the latest restaurant from the folks behind two Toro Kitchens and another Cuishe in Stone Oak is just thematic enough to reinforce the restaurant’s interior Mexican menu and its moniker, which is the name of an agave from which mezcal is made.
And speaking of that menu, it’s a real piece of work — huge, complex and running the gamut from humble to thoroughly over the top.
At the low end, it includes humble tacos de canasta — sometimes known as tacos sudados — presented in a simple, reed basket. At the other end are big-spender items such as a tomahawk steak, weighing in at $126, which can be embellished with 24K edible gold leaf for an additional $38. Making up the middle are shock-and-awe offerings featuring bugs and larvae designed, perhaps, to convey gritty authenticity and macho creds.
Let me hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with any of this — maybe apart from the gold leaf. The “sweated” taquitos, filled with bean, potato with chorizo and chicharrón come to you in tortillas glistening from a hot oil bath and accompanied by a fearless salsa verde. They’re especially fine as partners to a cocktail from the well-stocked bar. Since the restaurant’s name has ties to mezcal, let me point you toward drinks featuring that unbridled spirit: the San Miguel de Allende, which combines it with Jamaica, and the Toluca, which mixes it with both fresh and dehydrated pineapple.
Cuishe also offers a variety of street tacos, including a trompo with puerco al pastor. But if you want to tentatively test your tolerance for bicho frito, or fried bugs, let me suggest the tacos de camarón. The bichos in question are dried chapulines, or grasshoppers, which have been pulverized beyond recognition and serve as a coffee-dark coating to the fried shrimp. A robust chipotle cream sauce provides a contrast in cool and heat.
Setting aside the $48 sautéed escamoles, or nutty-tasting ant larvae, the next test for the bicho-curious might well be the crawlies served with guacamole and tiny tortillas. You’ll have to confront the critters head-on. The grasshoppers are joined by a few fried alacranes, or scorpions. Both surround a scoop of guacamole, which is just about enough to mellow out the limey crunchiness of the better-than-imagined bugs. Not sure my dining partner or I will order this again. But at least we’ll have bragging rights.
After the bugs, a plate of aguachiles de callo — thinly sliced scallops cured with lime juice and served with serrano chiles and pineapple — seemed tame. Even so, they were tasty. Cuishe’s Cubano proved an excellent beverage partner. The drink is essentially an amped-up michelada with Maggi, Worcestershire and Tabasco plus lime and a chamoy rim as festive as a Fiesta wreath.
The main dishes include chicken flautas at the low end and Wagyu arrachera — whole fajitas — on the high side.
A standout was the chile en nogada, or stuffed poblano. With its Mexican flag colors of red, white and green, the dish is typically served in mid-September around Mexican Independence Day. The blistered and peeled poblano is usually stuffed with a picadillo, and Cuishe uses ground beef with pineapple and raisins for a restrained touch of sweetness. There’s nothing restrained about the lush and generously applied nogada — or walnut — sauce. It includes goat cheese, cream, white wine and sherry — lots of sherry. Yet I finished the whole thing with only a hint of regret.
One person shouldn’t attempt to consume the entire sábana de invierno. The layered beef dish covers a massive plate and is even more generously smothered than the en nogada. Don’t think of the pounded and pummeled sirloin that forms the foundation as anything more than one of its many layers, which also include black bean purée, salsa verde, melted queso and crema. It’s all more than a little much, and yet I wouldn’t take a thing away.
Though Cuishe’s menu is expansive, there are fortunately just three desserts: guava flan, a chile-spiked chocolate brownie and pastel de campechana, an extravagant layered creation featuring vanilla ice cream, sugared puff pastry and cajeta. Since you’ll want the latter choice to warm up a little to facilitate eating, you may want to consider a Carajillo, a classic Spanish after-dinner drink consisting of dramatically flamed Licor 43 with an added shot of espresso. Even jaded critics can be seduced by flames.
Cuishe Cocina Mexicano
119 Heiman St. | (210) 960-8935 | cuishemx.com
Noon-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Noon-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Noon-9 p.m. Sunday
Noon-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
2-7 p.m. weekdays
: $10-$126 (main dishes)
tacos de canasta, tacos de camaron, aguachile de callo, chile en nogada, sábana de invierno, pastel de campechana, mezcal cocktails
The skinny: With its extensive patio seating, classy environs and huge Mexican menu, Cuishe should become a St. Paul Square oasis. Start with something simple such as the humble tacos de canasta or go straight for the lime-marinated aguachile de callo. Flirt with fried bugs and guacamole, your resolve fortified by a mezcal cocktail, then dig in to a hearty sabana de inviervo or the colorful chile en nogada. All while keeping in mind the opulent dessert that is the pastel de campechana.
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