By Karen Talbot
VEGA Mexican Cuisine
187-189 East Hartsdale Avenue
Dec. 21, 2016: VEGA is an authentic Mexican restaurant, one of the few in this area, and the best we have found. By "authentic" we refer to the homemade tortillas, excellent salsas, and friendly staff, which remind us of some of our many experiences in our favorite vacation spot in the mountains of near Guadalajara that we visit each year.
Vega is festively decorated with colorful orange banquettes, creative lighting effects, lit-up trees, and contemporary wall decorations. Vega has one main room as well as a large bar area with ample seating separated by a transparent wall, complete with a flowing water effect. Nice touches include the large square white porcelain plates on which each entrée and accompaniments are served.
I would suggest starting with the guacamole, which is made tableside and can be customized to your liking--usually built around the standard ingredients, which include perfectly ripened avocados, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Your decision at this point ranges from medium to extra hot. We ordered a communal choice of medium and enjoyed eating it with excellent homemade tortilla chips. By the way, the Mexican classic called pico de gallo (salsa fresca) was not served automatically (chopped tomato, onion, coriander leaves, fresh serranos, salt, and key lime juice), but once it came, it was delicious and was ordered repeatedly as the meal progressed.
We ordered four entrees. Cochinita pibil, achiote-marinated and slow roasted pork, and carnitas, succulent slow-roasted citrus pork with salsa verde, pineapple, and orange, were both tender and very flavorful, of course with a stack of warm tortillas on the side. Portions tend to be ample and we found that some of the pork dishes could be split. The chef, Enzo Di Vitto, who has been with the restaurant for two years, knows how to cook both of these dishes to perfection.
We also ordered as a main course shrimp diabla, plump, juicy, large shrimp in adobo spices, cilantro, onion, garlic, and fresh jalapenos, served in a bowl. The sauce was delicious just to eat with a spoon as you would with soup. The classic tacos, with ground beef, soft corn tortillas, rice, refried beans, and tomatillo salsa rounded up our entrees. Al dente and flavorful rice and refried beans came with both the pork and shrimp.
The owner is Jeevan Pullan and the manager, Ruben Ochoadr, who has been there for only two weeks but is highly experienced and seems to have everything under control. Most of the staff are Mexican, and the waiters wear black shirts and pants with rep stripe black and gray ties. The waiters are very attentive, and the service is very good. The restaurant serves up a very good straight-up margarita, sangria, and tequila drinks.
For dessert, we strongly recommend the excellent sopaipilla, fried dough dipped in honey and served on top of vanilla ice cream, accompanied by little containers of caramel and chocolate sauce. Four of us shared one--perhaps two next time.
Pictured here (from top down): Karen Talbot; a margarita at VEGA; chips with avocado sauce at VEGA.
Photo courtesy Karen Talbot