nNew York’s SoHo neighborhood has plenty of options for eaters and drinkers. You can wander through its network of local vibes, lamp-lit bars, and small independent restaurants for hours without deciding where to eat. So any local suggestion of a newcomer is always welcome—and our suggestion led us to Bar Tulix, the striped, shaded, dramatic and dimly lit number in West Houston.
Our first impression was the party vibe – we sipped super icy margaritas in the dining room full of colleagues dunking tortillas into large communal plates. The music was throwing, early Noughties R’n’B and hip-hop (cue countless “Oh my God, remember this?” time-travel moments). The young staff are fun and chatty, and they spoke to us through the long and very varied menu.
We dug into what, looking around, seemed to be a fan favorite – Baja Guak. A rustic bowl of mashed avocado, sour cream, green salsa, and cilantro, sprinkled with a drizzle of oil made from epazote, a local Mexican herb used as a healing tonic in the Motherland. Dipping crunchy, palm-sized tortillas into this creamy chili mixture while savoring a margarita set the cool tone for the evening, as we narrowed down what looked more interesting.
The focus here is undoubtedly on seafood, some in the form of a “raw bar” section running through oysters, sashimi, and aquashells, all made with Mexican herbs and spices. There’s even a seafood platter smeared with caviar. Besides grilled tuna and shrimp tostadetos, a great dish takes salmon and branzino, and octopus with red lentils and romesco sauce and paprika.
We’re brimming with Mexican take on shrimp cocktail, a delicious array of greasy prawns served in a pool of spicy habanero mayonnaise. and tuna tostaditos with horseradish and hibiscus where the freshness of the fish is unfortunately drowned out by the radish and a splatter of dry spices. We’re also unsure about the clam toast, which the staff raves about as a particular specialty—fatty slices of umami-rich clams were packed into a hunk of toast, but the overwhelming taste is too salty for any of us.
Vegetarians and vegans will enjoy the inclusion of vegan tacos—we try the excellent roasted carrots with coconut-almond sauce, but there’s also a version of asparagus. Paired with an heirloom tomato starter and Baja Guac, there’s a nice little selection of meatless and fish-free foods. We are tempted by the Veracruz salmon, dressed in olives, vegan, and tarragon, but we fill up quickly with the appetizers and generous portions all round.
Ultimately, Bar Tulix needs to ramp up its implementation somewhat in order to compete with the best Mexican restaurants in Manhattan—a city with great flavors of Latin America, served in styles from rustic to upscale. But lovers of seafood and vegetables, along with anyone looking for lighter plates of melted cheese and oiled classics – will love this joint’s creative coastal spin on what we know about this cuisine. We were late for cocktails, and enjoyed the music and the local crowd. If you want an atmosphere, this is the place for you.