La Camelia Restaurant By Chef Freddy Luna

La Camelia knows how to barbacoa

There's plenty of great barbecue in New York these days. We, however, have fallen for barbacoa.

At the West Village's new La Camelia, the guacamole is made to order, and the menu's other Mexican dishes are massaged with French technique and ingredients.

Some of chef Freddy Luna's experiments work; others do not. But Luna's barbacoa de borrego is stunning.

Modeled after a dish from his home state of Puebla, Luna wraps lamb shanks in banana leaves and cooks them for at least three hours. In Puebla, the meat is traditionally doused with dark beer and shocked with a variety of dried chiles, including chiles morados and ancho chiles. At La Camelia, Luna adds red wine and tempers the piquancy, using only a hint of chiles de árbol.

Then, when the meat is nearing collapse, Luna serves it one of two ways. In the first, house-made tortillas are loaded with shredded barbacoa ($12 for three); for the second, an entire shank ($18) is served with guajillo salsa and Mexican rice.

We're especially partial to the tacos, the lamb all game, grass and gentle heat. As we neared our last bite, we inadvertently muttered aloud, "Time to order another."

La Camelia, 64 Downing St. (at Seventh Ave.); 212-675-7060 or