The steak tartare tostada at Quique Crudo. Photo: Mariana Peláez

Pathogens aside, there is no safer dish for a restaurant to serve than steak tartare. Employees Only is known for mixing it tableside, while Corner Bar serves hand-chopped steak with a pool of plain yolk in the center. Neither is reinventing the wheel that spins at nearly every bistro, steak house, and wine bar in town, but the dish is a no-brainer for restaurateurs: It can be prepped ahead of time and finished quickly — there is no cooking to be done upon order — and easily dialed into any style or seasonality. Wildair tops theirs with a chunky walnut pesto. At Cote, it’s graced with pear, mustard seeds, and crisp puffs of beef tendon. Temple Court in the Beekman Hotel opts for a caper-heavy tonnato dressing, while Le Coucou’s rings in at $89 because of — you guessed it — caviar. Steak tartare is that rare triple-threat dish: It possesses what’s known as a “high perceived value” among diners, it’s familiar enough to ensure it will get ordered, and it’s chic enough to sell itself — a truth the Keith McNally restaurant universe is, in part, based on.

I’d become used to passing on tartare in favor of ordering something more exciting, but one recent preparation has changed my mind, perhaps because it seemed out of place on the menu at Quique Crudo, a cevicheria in the West Village opened by Cosme Aguilar. (If the name is any indication, seafood is the speciality here.) At his Long Island City restaurant Casa Enrique, he earned Michelin accolades for his Pueblan mole, pastor tacos, and menudo, all complex dishes that require a long time and a lot of ingredients to prepare correctly. The West Village outpost represents a fresher, more casual side to his cooking. “Back at home” in Chiapas, “we used to go to the bar and they give you totopos and some camaron, whatever they have,” he says.

When Aguilar decided to open a restaurant in the narrow space that could only be equipped with countertop appliances, he streamlined his menu: mostly raw things (lobster with coconut and ginger, an aguachile of shrimp, etc.), plus a few hot dishes like oysters cooked to order in a narrow deep fryer and scallops seared over an induction plate. Steak tartare fit the criteria, although Aguilar — who is also the chef at LIC’s very French Café Henri — needed a version that would work for the new restaurant: “You don’t need fire to do tostadas,” he says.

The chopped tenderloin is seasoned with by-the-book bistro ingredients — shallots, capers, cornichons, parsley, and chives minced and tossed in a mustardy aioli — but the twist comes from the heavy hand with which that dressing is applied to the steak. It’s nearly dip, which is fitting since it comes heaped on what is essentially a very large corn chip that turns out to be the perfect delivery system for a burger-size puck of cool beef.

Aguilar tops the tartare with an oily salsa macha he makes from ancho, guajillo, and pasilla chiles, adding sesame and pumpkin seeds, while moving the traditional peanut component to the garnish, allowing avoidant customers to opt out as necessary. Absorbing the oil turns the dried chiles chewy, almost meaty, and adds a surprisingly cooked flavor to the beef salad.

Because this tartare tostada is one of the heartiest things on Quique Crudo’s menu, it would make sense to treat it as a main course after a procession of seafood plates. At $22, it also happens to be one of the least-expensive dishes on the menu.

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