2/15/2013 01:45:00 PM

First Bite: Cricket Tacos at Antojeria La Popular

Looks tasty enough...
Tasty little buggers. We’d been curious about Antojeria La Popular, a recently opened tapas joint in Nolita by the Mexican couple behind Taka Taka and Vive la Crepe, not just because each tapa is named after a Mexican state, but more for the energy behind it. Being a huge fan of Mexican (actual Mexican, not Americanized) cuisine, we had high hopes for a restaurant that took these really distinct regional flavors - and a little risk to boot - and made them accessible for the general public. Owners Andres and Regina don’t play it safe, and some of the food deviates from what many diners’ palates may be comfortable with.

It’s no surprise that what’s gained the most attention is the Oaxaca, a cricket taco. Possibly because it’s quite unusual to eat bugs in the U.S. (even though elsewhere in the world, particularly in Latin America, it’s much, much more commonplace), it’s been what everyone’s talking about.

Tiny little crickets are deep-fried with a little salt and lime, then placed on a crispy corn tostada loaded with guacamole and smothered with crema. Truth be told, with everything else on the taco, you can hardly taste the crickets. But if taken away from the rest of the dish, we noticed that texture-wise it’s like every other deep-fried item, except with a strangely appealing grassy aftertaste.

Other, non-six-legged-options include morelos, a small dish of golden corn swimming in a sinfully rich cream sauce, topped with queso fresco and chili powder. We also liked the guerrero, a taco made from a pliable disc of jicama and filled with the simple, clean flavors of raw tuna and mango, with a tiny bit of habanero.

But back the bugs. We’re happy that these are around: Not only are insects actually a great source of protein, but hopefully they’ll become less of a circusy sideshow and more accepted here in this country. Let’s expand our horizons and follow the lead of chefs around the world (like Rene Redzepi, who encourages eating bugs) and devour, with abandon, this buggy goodness.

The Details: 50 Spring St.; 646-476-3567


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