September 3, 2001 | Ask Gael

What does a high-heeled shoe have to do with it?

         Milton Glaser's fruit-filled pump strikes me as a deliciously perfect logo to celebrate Danzón, the narrow little duplex Zarela Martínez and her daughter Marissa Sánchez dedicate to the fragrant, often fiery mix of Mexican, Spanish, and African cooking unique to Veracruz. It's early and some of the staff is still quite raw, but we're mellowed out on fine margaritas. Go easy, you gourmand Magellans. Most everything is meant to share. Our ravenous posse overindulges in starters — crisp seafood tacos, a smartly citric guacamole with house-made chips, polentalike corn masa and shredded pork baked in terra cotta, and a lively shrimp-and-avocado salad that's a dance on its own. No way we can do justice to so many entrées: Veracruz's classic red snapper baked whole with pickled jalapeños. A Mexican-style paella. Fragrant chicken in a chili-orange-vanilla sauce, pork carnitas in pumpkin sauce, and a surprisingly delicious side of mashed plantains. Lush, complex morita-chili sauce almost saves the too-cooked hanger steak. Why the shoes? Zarela, ramrod-straight atop spiky ankle-straps, explains: "Because Mexican girls are born with two things: pierced ears and high heels."

Danzón 126 East 28th Street, 212 252 1345
Patina Restaurant Group

Cafe Fiorello