Órale Mexican Kitchen offers fresh, elevated Mexican cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients, exclusively. Owners Louis Alvarez and Alex Mendelsohn, former executives with Rosa Mexicano Restaurants, bring a new level of vibrancy to a Jersey City neighborhood already studded with culinary jewels.
Órale’s Consulting Chef, James Muir, has crafted a menu that’s both traditional Mexican and New Jersey fresh with its ingredients. Muir, who’s worked in the United States and Europe with world renowned chefs like Alain Ducasse, now owns his own catering company and not only consults on the Órale menu, but offers guidance in the kitchen.
One the evening we visited, a Friday night, the front doors, spanning the width of the restaurant, were completely open providing a perfect vantage point from which to take all the action at Órale. Before entering the place, we knew it was going to be a fun evening.
The spacious bar is situated at the entrance of the restaurant and it was busy with the happy hour crowd from nearby businesses. Classic Margaritas range from $7 to $13 and I had the pleasure of trying a frozen strawberry special of the evening and the Aumentar ($8) made with 1800 Silver, lemon, lime and agave. I don’t typically veer away from the classic, on-the-rocks with salt version, but the fun frozen special with muddled strawberries was also nice. Beyond the Tequila being used in mixed cocktails, Órale offers an extensive portfolio of ‘sipping’ Tequilas that dwarfs other lists I’ve seen in the area. For the designated drivers, there are specialty homemade sodas, daily Aguas Frescas and real Mexican Coca Cola and Sprite.
At the suggestion of our friendly and helpful waiter, we selected the Trio of Guacamole ($12), the Tuna Tacos ($12) and the Al Pastor Tacos ($9). There are six different guacamoles to select from for the trio and one sounds better than the next. We opted for the Blue Demon – Cabrales Blue Cheese, Toasted Pepitas, the Mananitas – Guajillo Shrimp and the El Bombero – Chipotle, Chile de Arbol. I love guacamole with blue cheese in it so my favorite by a slight advantage was the Blue Demon. The shrimp topping the Mananitas was perfectly cooked and flavorful and the perfect level of heat on the El Bombero made us dip for more. The tuna in the taco is sashimi grade and served raw with a pear chili slaw, pumpkin pesto and cilantro then served in a crisp leaf of iceberg lettuce in lieu of a tortilla. The Al Pastor was outstanding with tender marinated roasted pork and topped with caramelized pineapple, Chile de Arbol and cilantro. I could make a meal out of a couple orders of those A Pastor tacos – delectable.
Since we’d loaded up on amazing starters, we opted to share one entrée, the Dinosaurio ($24) – Ancho Chipotle Marinated Bone-In Short Rib grilled with Tamal de Olla and a tomatillo chipotle compote. The massive piece of meat is sliced and presented on the bone for easy serving. The dish is served over Tamal de Olla which is what I’d equate as typical tamale ‘filling’ baked in a dish then spooned much like mashed potatoes would, but super flavorful. That delicious concoction topped with the smoky tomatillo compote somewhat eclipsed the meat in this dish.
As if our party saved room for dessert, we were presented with two fabulous desserts, Vanilla Flan and Tres Leches -one of my favorite desserts. The flan is served with Cajeta sauce and whipped cream. It’s velvety smooth and the caramel sauce is a true indulgence. The three milks cake is melt-in-your-mouth and served with a strawberry sauce and whipped cream. All the desserts are $6.
Some of the house specialties I’ll be sure to try on my next visit are the Taco Machin – roasted bone marrow topped with crispy pork belly and shredded cabbage and to end things on a sweet note, the Morenitas – three freshly-baked Mexican pecan brownies.
341 Grove Street, Jersey City, NJ. 201-333-0001.
Monday: Closed, Tuesday-Thursday 12PM-10PM, Friday-Saturday: 12PM-11PM, Sunday: 12PM-9PM
Late Night Happy Hour – Tuesday – Saturday: 9:30PM – Close.
Veronique Deblois is a food and wine blogger based in Morris County, NJ. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.