Look at what you may find in your next taco: Scrambled eggs. Kimchee. Southern fried chicken. Even sushi.
Call it a break with the centuries-old Mexican tradition of corn tortillas filled with simply cooked meat, poultry or fish and topped with cilantro. Still, weren't traditions made to be tweaked? "We wanted to exceed people's expectation of what a taco is," said Devin Delgado, co-chef and owner of the freewheeling Magic Taco in Islip Terrace. Here, said Delgado, tacos are seen as vehicles for fillings, many exhibiting Southeast Asian flavors. It's all about "street food" amped up for "high-end" appeal.
The inspiration for chef William Muzio's Peking duck tacos at View in Oakdale came from the moo shu duck he regularly eats at a favorite Chinatown restaurant. "I wanted to make it fun," Muzio said, describing the way he uses a taco maker to shape wonton skins that he fries and then fills with a decidedly non-Mexican mix of ingredients.
All over Long Island, tacos are being tweaked on a daily basis -- at gastropubs, Asian restaurants, Latin bistros and New American spots. Go forth and taste for yourself.
Wonton sushi tacos, Ting
Ting, Huntington: A big hit at this well-appointed pan-Asian spot is a trio of elegant little tacos with fried wonton wrappers standing in for tortillas. They're filled, respectively, with tartares of tuna, salmon and yellowtail that come straight from the sushi bar, mixed with soy mustard sauce, tomatoes, cilantro and onions. (three for $14)
Short rib tacos, George Martin The Original
George Martin The Original, Rockville Centre: At this long-standing American bistro, executive chef Frank Greco piles pulled short ribs into hard corn tortillas that he tops with a "firecracker" slaw of spicy shredded cabbage — "for crunch" — plus Jack cheese, salsa and chipotle cream. (two for $10 as an appetizer)
Ahi tuna BLT tacos, Zim Zari California Coastal Grill
Zim Zari California Coastal Grill, Massapequa Park: Anything can happen at a place that calls its cuisine "California coastal." In the case of the ahi tuna BLT tacos, a luncheonette classic meets up with garnishes from the sushi bar. What you get is seared tuna, mixed greens, bacon, plum tomato, wakame seaweed salad and a cucumber wasabi drizzle, everything heaped onto two flour tortillas. (two for $9.95)
Southern fried chicken tacos, Pico Tequila Grill
Pico Tequila Grill, Bay Shore: At this hip-looking nouveau Tex-Mex spot, chef co-owner John Pellegrino takes a page from Southern cooking to come up with a taco featuring buttermilk batter-fried boneless breast with honey lime mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickle chips. ($3.75 each)
Lobster tacos, Heirloom Tavern
Heirloom Tavern, Glen Head: These days, no gastropub is complete without a taco to call its own. At this one, executive chef Kent Monkan puts out a lobster taco comprising a soft corn tortilla that's lightly grilled before being filled with lobster meat, mango salsa, celery root, carrots and spicy aioli. ($6 each)
Angry shrimp tacos, The Refuge
The Refuge, Melville: At this eye-catching Latin-Italian newcomer, chef John Ferrara fires up his "angry" shrimp tacos with a blend of jalapeño, serrano and ghost chili peppers. The spicy crustaceans are piled into your choice of flour or corn tortillas with vegetable citrus slaw, lime and cilantro crema. On the side: Spanish rice and fried plantains. (two for $15.95)
Peking duck tacos, View
View, Oakdale: What to eat while sipping cocktails and taking in a view of Great South Bay? Peking duck tacos, wherein wonton wrappers are treated as tortillas. They're shaped, fried, filled with shredded Long Island duck, hoisin sauce, scallion and avocado before being topped with shredded beets. (three for $13)
Asian fish tacos, Lola
Lola, Great Neck: It's not the everyday Cal-Mex fish taco you'll find at Lola, where executive chef-owner Michael Ginor gives his culinary imagination free rein. Here, he puts a global spin on the classic fish taco. Cod is battered and fried, then tossed in an Asian-style reduction of fish sauce, soy, sugar and garlic before being topped with a green papaya slaw, aji amarillo aioli, garnished with pickled onion. (two for $12)