Peyton Powell recently took over as executive chef in the kitchen at Astoria’s Pachanga Patterson, the third restaurant of the Mexican trio that also includes Vesta in Astoria and Venturo in Sunnyside. Powell had been the executive sous chef at Casa Mono since 2009 and also worked at DB Bistro Moderne, as well as Daniel.
Powell met the owners of Pachanga by eating at Vesta and seeing them around Astoria, where he has been living for the last four years.
“I loved what they were doing in the neighborhood, and wanted to be a part of it,” explains the chef.
Previously, Pachanga focused on serving “family meals,” incorporating nontraditional ingredients into classic Mexican recipes. A family meal, in the restaurant industry, is a staff meal served before a shift. While tacos stuffed with duck remain, the theme has moved from fusion to classic Mexican.
“What I’m trying to do at Pachanga is not strictly Oaxacan,” says Powell, “even though it’s my favorite region of Mexico, foodwise. I want to incorporate traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients influenced by my background, in a local, seasonal, and comfortable environment.”
The result is some of the most delicious Mexican food in the entire city. A surprisingly light queso fundido arrives in a shallow clay dish, studded with hen of the woods mushrooms, tiny diced cubes of butternut squash, and pumpkin seeds. Quacamole is served in the classic style, or can be ordered jazzed up with pomegranate seeds, queso fresco, and chipotle pepper oil, making it sweet and spicy.
Cabernet colored beets are delicately charred on the grill, and served with pickled apples, crushed peanuts, and hibiscus. Grilled octopus is stewed with cannellini beans and jalapeno oil, giving just the right spark of heat to remarkably tender tentacles.
If you order the fideos con mariscos, do not plan on sharing even a single bite, as these head-on prawns are sweet and tender, swimming with mussels in a pot of broken capellini, stewed with cactus paddles in a habanero aioli. From the land, never has pork belly been executed to such deliciousness, glazed with tamarind and served with crunchy chicharrones and tangy tangerines.
“Pachanga” can loosely be translated as “street party,” which means there are plenty of unique cocktails to sip. Drinks range from a Coriander en Fuego to a Cactus Cooler, made from organic prickly pear puree, blended with tequila blanco.
From appetizers to desserts, Pachanga Patterson is hitting it out of the park. Chef Powell is dishing out some pretty remarkable dishes worthy of at least a visit, if not two… or 20. If only all Mexican food could taste this fantastic.
33-17 31st Ave., Astoria
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