The crowds that regularly fill Este come for many reasons, one obvious draw being to enjoy the striking contemporary redo of homey old East Side Cafe. The airy vertical space, spanned by white rafters and accented by greenery, puts you in a good mood (it’s also quite noisy, so consider yourself warned). The restaurant’s two founders—owner Sam Hellman-Mass and chef-owner Fermín Nuñez—have given a sophisticated coastal spin to the modern Mexican concept they pioneered at their enormously popular first collaboration, Suerte. But they also take care with the basics, namely excellent, brawny house-made chips accompanied by two terrific salsas, a silky orangey-red chile emulsion and a mild herbal blend. You might want to start light, perhaps with aguachile, its pristine slices of raw shrimp encircled by thin rounds cucumber, plus avocado and a tart cacao and habanero broth. Among the main courses, pan-seared tout filets (well done but still moist) come swathed in a lush guajillo-like pulla-chile cream that is brightly garnished with orange trout roe. Guests who don’t fancy fish have several alternatives, including steak au poivre in mezcal chipotle cream sauce. Whatever your protein preference, a magnificent finish is the dark chocolate crèmeaux layered with salty tamarind caramel and cocoa-nib-studded tuilles. Incidentally, Este was named to both the New York Times and Bon Appétit’s lists of the best restaurants of 2023.
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Modern Mexican Seafood in a Contemporary, Light-Filled Space