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Fonda Brings Authentic Mexico City Cuisine to Chelsea

By Mathew Katz | May 15, 2014 11:46am
  The new Chelsea Mexican spot will specialize in Mexico City cuisine. 
Fonda Restaurant Comes to Chelsea
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CHELSEA — This new Mexican restaurant is old school.

At Fonda, tortillas are rolled by hand. Guacamole is crushed in a stone. Beans are mashed by hand instead of a blender, and salsa is chopped with a knife.

The restaurant's goal is the authentic Mexican experience, hearkening back to chef Roberto Santibanez's childhood in Mexico City.

"We really are a lot more based on tradition and authenticity," Santibanez said. "We showcase a very particular sort of Mexico. It's contemporary Mexican urban cooking."

Fonda will open its third location at 189 Ninth Ave. in Chelsea on Friday, bringing Santibanez's cuisine to the former home of Bombay Talkie, and aiming to create a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere where diners can enjoy fresh Mexican food.

The 65-person Chelsea spot will join the original Park Slope restaurant that opened in 2009, and an East Village offshoot that opened in 2011. 

The new location will have a near-identical menu, but will have a bit more flair when it comes to drinks, including a frozen Rosalita made with silver tequila, hibiscus, orange liqueur and lime juice.

"The bar program is a little more innovative, we'll have a mixologist, more creative drinks, and more mezcals and tequilas," Santibanez said. "This is a neighborhood where people don't mind paying 15 bucks for a shot of mezcal."

Along with its signature made-to-order guacamole, the restaurant specializes in Duck Zarape, a ravioli-like dish made of soft corn tortillas filled with braised duck and roasted tomato-habanero cream sauce, and carne asada tacos with chile de arbol salsa. 

"Roberto's passion for authentic ingredients is amazing," said general manager Victor Salazar. "At any given time we'll have 20 different kinds of fresh chiles in the kitchen."

The restaurant will also carry a selection of Mexican sodas sweetened with sugar, including Jarittos and Boing. 

"There's no diet soda here," Salazar said. "If someone is that passionate about their diet, they can drink water."

Split between two floors, the restaurant will initially serve dinner and brunch, with a lunch menu coming in the summer. With several large booths, the upstairs is well-suited for large groups and smaller private parties.

Santibanez said the cozy atmosphere was intentional — even though he's expanded into several neighborhoods, he prefers a smaller, more intimate space to a mega-restaurant.

"We truly believe we can be in many more neighborhoods, but we're going to keep it small," he said. "It's like home. Come in your slippers."