The accolades keep streaming in for Claro, an Oaxacan restaurant in Gowanus run by Union Square Cafe alum chef T.J. Steele: Times critic Pete Wells awarded it two stars in a review where he calls dishes like the moles “riveting.”
Oaxacan food is fairly rare to find in NYC, and Steele does a distinctively “New York chef” take on the Mexican cuisine, finely tuning flavors with non-traditional ingredients such as kale and sunchokes, Wells writes. The resulting moles, memelas, and tostadas work:
The moles at Claro are riveting: The ground nuts and dried spices, the garlic and onions all seem to bring out the personalities of the chiles — sometimes fruity, sometimes vegetal — while tamping down their heat. He keeps their bitterness in check, too.
Pork cheek was stewed in a mole rojo that has just enough chocolate to make you smile; the mole negro, in which marbled short ribs were cooked to extreme tenderness, was so balanced that no one ingredient ever seemed to be in the lead. Chichilo, not one of your everyday moles, was the brightest and most outgoing of the three, and a big pool of it made an exciting foil for a chile relleno filled with shredded, spiced duck.
Eater critic Robert Sietsema previously awarded Claro three stars, and fellow critic Ryan Sutton similarly found that the mole there is stunning. For Wells, some dishes, like a beef tongue taco, were slightly off on occasion, but with a “restrained” design and often exciting fare, Claro has fared well. Two stars.