Acclaimed chef/restaurateur Alex Stupak is planning to open a new Empellón restaurant at 510 Madison Avenue near 53rd Street, just a stone's throw away from Rockefeller Center. The chef tells Eater that this will be the "biggest Empellón project" and the "most polished thing to date." Although the chef wants to offer a "refined experience," he promises that it will still be fun and accessible, and that tacos will be part of the program. Stupak notes that "the restaurant name will not have a subtitle like the others." If everything goes according to plan, Empellón will open by the end of 2016.
Before striking out on his own, Stupak was the pastry chef at Clio in Boston, Alinea in Chicago, and wd~50 on Clinton Street. After leaving Wylie Dufresne's restaurant in 2011, he shifted gears with the opening of his first Mexican-influenced project, Empellón Taqueria, in the West Village. The chef expanded to the East Village with the opening of Empellón Cocina in 2012, and he opened Empellon Al Pastor, a casual bar/taqueria near Tompkins Square Park, in 2013. Stupak's first cookbook with co-author Jordana Rothman, Tacos: Recipes and Provocations, was released last fall.
While building his small empire of casual restaurants, Stupak also flexed his fine dining muscles at Cocina over the years, first with the collaborative Push Project dinners, and later with the launch of the Kitchen Table. In January, Eater critic Ryan Sutton praised Stupak's new tasting menu experience at Empellón Cocina:
Stupak isn't afraid to juxtapose modernity with tradition, refinement with rusticity. He sends out crispy quesadillas with string cheese and pork belly and a near perfect salsa with each ingredient chosen by one of the four guests (an haute stone soup). It all tastes familiar. Here's what's less familiar: Super Bowl party-worthy masa waffles with chicken liver butter, or a tiny mousse-filled puff whose magnified flavors of dairy and corn feel like a gordita-esque hat tip to golgappe, the yogurt-filled Indian street snack. Then there's the classic Oaxacan black mole, which comes not as a chicken smothering sauce but as a star ingredient in its own right, an inky ice cream whose warming spice contradicts its cool temperature.
The new Midtown restaurant will be the first time that Stupak has moved into a raw space, so presumably, he will be able to create the exact kitchen and dining rooms that he wants. This could mean a more substantial space for a tasting menu-style experience, although Stupak points out that this new Empellón will be "more populist than what I consider real fine dining."
Stay tuned for more updates on the new Midtown Empellón restaurant as they become available.