Newborn: The Black Ant
It’s been a roller coaster of a week for edible insects. The Nordic Food Lab cautioned against eating raw ants as if that was something being done on so large a scale it merited a public service announcement, a pest control company announced a series of pop-up “pestaurants,” which means grasshopper burgers in D.C., oh, and Vice reported on Butterfly Skye’s Edible Bug Shop in Australia.
New Yorkers can get in on the bug craze, too, at the appropriately named The Black Ant that recently opened in the East Village. If anything, the Mexican restaurant which definitely stands out from the latest burst of modern Mexican food in NYC, comes by its unusual ingredients honestly. Chef and partner Mario Hernandez (also of Ofrenda) taps into the country’s pre-Columbian roots in a way that comes across a novel rather than gimmicky. And while the insects are getting all the attention, these proteins of the dystopian future are used sparingly.
Crunchy, tangy chaupulines appear on tlayudas, kicking back on a lava flow of Oaxacan queso de rancho spiked with charred chile de agua salsa while ants show up in a few places, including the guacamole hiding unexpected slivers of orange and flavored with chicatana (flying ants) salt, served with the thick, palm-sized tortillas that also accompany many of the mains. Both are very good (and I would say that even if I hadn’t been a guest of the restaurant).
Other highlights include a yellowtail ceviche and a serrano ponzu, yes, with black ants (and sea beans just to throw things off), and insectless entrees involving suckling pig, squash and green mole, and scallops and oxtail tinga in a pozole-ish stew. You can even have a cocktail named after the Mayan god of maize–the Yum Kaax is a milky blend of corn juice, ant salt and tequila, flavored unusually with hard-to-chew epazote leaves, more commonly used as a natural Beano to season beans.
Completely un-related–not to mention un-appetizing–but I came home this evening to ants crawling all over my carpet, something that’s never happened in the 15 months I’ve lived in this apartment. I did not try to eat them.
The Black Ant * 60 Second Ave., New York, NY