"Care for a little food with your garlic, señor...?"
Now, that's not entirely fair: there were plenty of other flavors—chipotle, chili, spicy mole—also fighting for my attention at El Centro, and they were fine flavors all... but I can't say I could really taste the food itself. Take my Roasted Pork Chilaquiles, basically a casserole of day-old tortilla chips and garlicky pulled pork, slathered in spicy mole, then topped with avocado, queso blanco and muchos chives. It felt good to eat, no question—hearty, crunchy, rich—but I doubt it tasted any different than, say, the Grilled Shrimp Cilaquiles. My Chipotle Caesar Salad was the same kind of thing... a large plate of romaine, garlicky croutons, and cheese that really all just served as a delivery vehicle for the intensely spicy dressing. My dining companion Jack devoured his plate of Cheese Enchiladas. Definitely no complaints there... but again, it all kind of felt like the food was just something to chew on so that we could swallow the sauce.
After a meal like that (which can take days to stop tasting), I needed dessert, and to my surprise, the kitchen totally came through with a reasonably scrumptious take on a s'more: gooey marshallow melted onto a sugary graham cracker topped with dense chocolate ice cream. It wasn't subtle, but it definitely did the trick. And speaking of not-subtle, the undeniably appealing and festive decor—the tables are bottled caps under glass; the chandeliers are made of Corona bottles; the lamps, crowns of apple juice containers, and the entire North wall is filled with tin ornaments depicting Mexican tarot symbols—also makes El Centro, on 9th Avenue and 54th Street, worth putting into your mix of Hell's Kitchen, pre-theater dinner choices.