The road to La Gloria is paved with good intentions. Chef Johnny Hernandez coupled his C.I.A. credentials with extensive travels south of the border to open, in the Pearl complex, his version of Paradise devoted to the street foods of Mexico. This should be cause for daily gritos, a year-round celebration of independence from the Number 2 Dinner.
And there are some dishes that do take us right into the side streets of Mexico. The whole fish can be spectacular, so too the sizzling “molcajete” (stone mortar) of pork in chiles. We say sí to the marinated camarones aguachile. And the crowds that often clog the entry (the gridlock is less now that you no longer have to order at the counter) are a sign that La Gloria has struck a celestial chord. Now, of course, the critics have to carp—with only the best of our own intentions. Honest.
The issue is that many of the offerings simply don’t measure up to their humble counterparts. Tacos alambres feature tough pieces of skewered beef, chicken en escabeche lacks vinegary tang, quesadillas of chicharrones (pork skins) are chewy and bland, tacos al pastor can come out dry on equally unimpressive corn tortillas, the pig part of the panucho de cochinita pibil can taste burned…the litany continues. We pray for an epiphany. In the meantime, we’ll take advantage of the expanded margarita and wine lists; perhaps that way lies salvation.
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