Alma 33 Offers NY’s Most Creative Example of Argentina’s Exciting Cuisine

Alma 33 is located at 33 West 8 Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

They are open for dinner and late night on Sun-Tues from 5:30 PM – 1 AM, Wed-Sat from 5:30 PM – 2 AM, and for brunch Sat/Sun from 10 AM – 4 PM.

Lunch is coming soon. For more information, call 212-380-8794 or visit www.almanyc33.com.

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Exterior and Interior Photos: Zandy Mangold

Diverse Culture Comes to Life at Alma 33

What a joy to discover a fresh, affordable and fabulous restaurant such as Alma 33. Not only does it feel far more upscale than prices would suggest, but management, from reception at the door to waitstaff and bus-persons are incredibly nice. Kudos to co-owner Jessica Cohen, whose charm and interaction adds a personal touch.

You know something is special when your table receives a bottle of filtered water (filtered 5 times as a matter of fact) gratis. (A recent visit to a 4 star restaurant offered the same but at a hefty charge). When it comes to food, you won’t be disappointed.

If a generous serving of Entraña—Argentinean grilled skirt steak, served with an assertive kiss of rosemary smoke under an ultra-chic glass dome—with a bold glass of Malbec doesn’t sound like an accessibly-priced meal, meet the dynamic, handsome young talent and recent Italian transplant, Enrico Primarti  who mans Alma’s stoves, Having spent time at Falai and the East Side Social Club since moving from Florence. His energy and passionare is immediately apparent. His style is pure, modern and not overly fussy. Chef Primarti  respects fresh, quality ingredients and flavor is always the star.

The other force at work is Richard Lusardi, a New Yorker of Argentinean descent, is bridging his deep understanding of the restaurant industry—he’s spent years on the managing teams at such big names as Craft, The Beacon, and Windows on the World—with his equally extensive experience as a consumer. The result? A budget-friendly experience that doesn’t skimp on quality, innovation, or fun. 

Both Richard and chef Enrico laugh about the all-too-common migration of Italians to Argentina. It’s with this in mind that they’ve devised a menu that is more inspired from the South American country and its myriad cultural influences than paying strict authentic tribute to it. And though they don’t share native tongues, Primarti and Lusardi speak about their craft with a mutual sense of soul—hence the name, Alma. (which means “soul” in Spanish).

 

Meet Alma 33, the new West Village eatery that’s serving Argentinean-inspired dishes with a heaping side of value-consciousness. (Below)

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The dining room—which housed former favorite Elettaria and was once one of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite places to jam—is recessed behind a vibrant bar area, with wide street exposures that offer views towards Washington Square Park and allow a sultry lighting to enter the space once the sun has set. Inside, restored barnwood beams from upstate New York adorn the ceiling and add instant warmth, while natural colors and fabrics in bronze, amber and gold add comforting touches, such as comfortable booths and tables and rustic burlap drapes. And unlike many other restaurants, the distinct dining room and bar spaces represent two completely unique experiences. The goal, says Lusardi, is to offer value and variety—a combo that he knows has won him over as a customer before and that he knows too few others offer in the city’s current restaurant scene.

Picadas, or appetizer-style Argentinean treats, are the name of the game in the bar area, where an ample list of highly affordable by-the-glass wines can compliment such delicacies as polenta lollipops with fontina fonduta. Here, perfect rounds of fried polenta—each playfully skewered onto a lollipop stick—come served with a dipping sauce of oozing fontina cheese, a play between the airy rounds and indulgent formaggio. A portion of sardinas is ideal to share, with freshly seared sardines and goat cheese layered onto Argentinean miga bread. It’s all drizzled with a pistachio and basil pesto, whose vegetal and earthy notes add depth and balances the sardine’s assertive taste for extra refinement. Even if you are not a sardine fan, you will adore these babies.

Skirt steak skewers with chimichurri fulfill any typical Argentinean craving, but the Hojaldre offers a twist on the expected. Here, a lesser-known regional specialty that resembles the Italian gnocco pairs a typical Argentinean riff of puff pastry with mascarpone cream, jamon Serrano, and a balsamic glaze. Other wonders include crunchy sweetbreads with fennel puree and oranges and delicious  empanadas filled with red wine-braised short ribs and green olives or slow roasted chicken, bechamel, green peas and corn . We also adored the unusual mini sweet and hot peppers filled with pork, beef and herbs. For foodies, the appetizer star may be Tartara De Salmon salmon tartar with avocado, green apple and shaved fennel , which arrives under a glass dome, which when lifted, releases the subtle aroma of the house-smoked salmon. Superb!

Do as the Argentineans do and pair these picadas with a selection of international beers—five on tap and more than 15 by the bottle from South America to Spain and beyond. It’s a perfect pairing, whether enjoyed among large parties at high tables, a few friends in front of the sweeping windows watching passersby, or in any of the intimate nooks and crannies scattered throughout the restaurant’s front area.

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For the signature Entraña—Argentina’s most well known dish, here seared on the grill and then smoked with the essences of apple wood and rosemary—take a seat in the main dining room. There, a menu of composed pastas and entrees is available, representing some Argentinean classics and many more innovative twists on the country’s flavors.

For one such adventure, try the Ravioles Morcilla, described by chef Primarti as “Argentinean ingredients inside an Italian folder.” The pasta shells are stuffed with a combo of morcilla (Argentina’s take on boudin noir) and goat cheese, making for a more delicate introduction into the bold flavors the sausage presents. Risotta alla Parmigiana, also, works with the country’s bounty, offering thin ribbons of tender malbec-braised short ribs atop a classic risotto. A surprise twist: reggianito and a finish of mascarpone add crunch and richness for a harmonious marriage of Italian and Argentinean tastes.

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Ravioles Morcilla 

After a few pastas, it’s natural to turn your attention to the heartier entrees. The Parrillada offers an obligatory opportunity to indulge the inner carnivore, with a variety of grilled cuts—Entraña, Sweetbreads, Morcilla and Chorizo—to share between two. alma Ostiones

For something a little lighter, the Ostiones (Pictured Above) are an inventive creation consisting of pan seared shrimp-crusted scallops that are set atop a delicate celeriac puree and drizzled with white truffle oil. There’s no greater temptation than to supplement any of these entrees with Alma’s sides—specifically, the Chauchas (sautéed haricot vert with garlic, almonds and raisins) and Papas Ala Provenzal (home-cut fries with a parsley and garlic gremolada).

In addition to a generous wine list with ample choices, red and white, at unbeatably accessible prices,(from $7 to $8, and each glass is available by the bottle). Alma 33 also offers an impressive selection of house-made cocktails designed by Lusardi himself. Inspired from his own days behind the bar, they include the Manquito—Tanqueray Gin, fresh lemon juice, Cassis as a splash of soda—and Las Uvas de la Ira, with muddled grapes and raw sugar as the sweet stars paired with Bushmills, apple juice and lime. 

For dessert, a rotating menu of specials offers numerous must-try options. Argentinean classics that Lusardi sourced from his childhood memories and family recipes include Panqueques de Dulce de Leche—flambeed crepes stuffed with the country’s caramel-like signature sweet—and a sponge-cake like treat called Pionono. Each pairs swiftly with a cup of fabulous coffee or shot of espresso, and in true Latin American style, Alma 33 has enlisted only the best—though many of New York’s top kitchens share their choice of Queens-based roaster Dallis Coffee, Alma is rare in employing their most high-end, Brazilian farmed Octavio Coffee line. Only have room for one sweet treat? Don’t miss the saffron panna cotta, a deeply fragrant custard that bears ample evidence of the kitchen’s attention towards sourcing the best ingredients, topped with a house-made mango chutney and dulce de leche drizzle.

The Attractive Bar Room Below

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Alma 33, with its $8 appetizers and  $15 entrees, puts so  many  expensive cookie-cutter restaurants to shame that it would be a real shame to not make a reservation ASAP.  Alma 33 . .  What’s Not To Like?

 

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Copyright 2011 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved .

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Casabe Bistro Latino

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Casabe Bistro Latino

ADDRESS: 208 E 58 St.

PHONE: (212) 750-7766

LOCATION HISTORY: Previously Nino’s 208

OPENED FOR DINNER: October 19, 2010

Manager: Richard Huguenot

Sous Chef  Lenis Gonzalez

OWNER: Nino Selimaj nino

BACKGROUND: Known primarily by his first name, which lends itself to Nino’s family of popular Italian restaurants, Selimaj makes his first venture into Latin American cuisine with Casabe Bistro Latino, marking a new partnership with notable Latin chef Ricardo Cardona. His career started upon his arrival to New York City as a young boy, whereupon he took a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant on East 58th, the same street he returns to with this new concept. After working his way up the ladder and opening the first Nino’s on First Avenue, he has developed expertise as a seasoned restaurateur, his portfolio now boasts such successes as Nino’s Positano, Osso Buco, 208 and Nino’s Tuscany.

CONCEPT: A Latin Bistro, Casabe (pronounced ca-sah-beh) is named for a traditional yucca-based bread commonly eaten in Colombia, the Caribbean,South America. and the Dominican Republic. The restaurant will use the bread as a base for many of its signature dishes, and the menu as a whole will emphasize refined Latin American comforts. Rather than focusing on any one geographic lens, the menu will blend the flavors and traditions of all Latin American countries with modern and unique presentations. Ambiance will be lively, with salsa music, a Mojito lounge on the second floor, and live entertainment one night a week.

This Spanish, Caribbean and South American Menu features Nouveau Latin cuisine with dishes like Churrascos, Ceviches, Arepas, Paella and Tacos. The Mojito Bar Lounge offers live latin music and a selection of specialty drinks

CONSULTING CHEF: Ricardo Cardona

BACKGROUND: Chef Ricardo Cardona is a self-trained chef with over twenty five years experience in creating cutting edge Nuevo Latino cuisine. He is most well known for his use of unique ingredients that dig deep into the heart of the Latin culture while making surprising, unexpected choices that are delivered with gourmet flair. Chef Cardona has helmed such popular restaurants as New York’s Hudson Terrace, Mama Juana NY, Sofrito, 809, Tabaco y Ron and Sazon, as well as his own recent project, Gabbana.  His cuisine regularly serves such luminaries as singer Marc Anthony and wife, Jennifer Lopez; the members of the New York Yankees baseball team and New York Knicks basketball team; actor Andy Garcia; boxer Oscar de la Hoya; designer Oscar de la Renta; singer Julio Iglesias; and guests at the Premo Nuestro Awards, among many others.

PRICE POINT: Under $25

SIGNATURE DISHES: Cazuelita de Bacalao Guizado with Sweet Plantain Fufu, Salmon con Casabe (Casabe crusted salmon), Free Form Chipotle Ravioli with Rioja Braised Short Ribs, Arroz con Pollo.

WINES AND COCKTAILS: The wine list will focus on American, South American, and Spanish bottles at an affordable price point; cocktails will be designed by Mamjuana mixologist Roger Gonzeles, whose focus will be on balancing the sweetness of tropical Latin fruits with traditional South American spirits and wines. A Mojito bar on the second floor will feature a Mojito bar inspired by seasonal flavors.

AVAILABILITY FOR PRIVATE PARTIES: The second floor will be available for private events, as well as off- and in-premise catering.

TAKEOUT AND DELIVERY: Both will be available

HOURS: Lunch 11:45 AM – 3PM 7 days a week; Dinner 5 – 12PM Monday through Thursday, 5PM – 1AM Friday through Saturday, and 5 – 10PM on Sunday. Brunch will be introduced shortly after opening.

TOTAL CAPACITY:  70 seats downstairs, and another 50 on the 2nd floor, including seats at the Mojito bar.

CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED: All major Credit Cards

It’s no surprise that, in an effort to unite the myriad flavors of South America and the Caribbean, chef Ricardo Cardona and owner Nino Selimaj chose cassava as their fugue—an ingredient to come back to over and over again, to reveal its multifaceted permutations, and even inspire the very name of their first joint venture: Casabe Bistro Latino. After all, it’s the cornerstone of nary every Latin comfort food—an under-glorified ingredient due its star turn in the increasingly chic world of Nuevo Latino flavors. Named for the traditional yucca-based breads commonly eaten in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, Casabe is Cardona and Selimaj’s ode to refined Latin comforts and traditions—a lively spot where the food and the music exude a festive environment worth coming back to. casaba int main

            Housed in the same space that once held Nino’s 208, Casabe is very proudly the sum of its esteemed parts. A prominent fixture of the Manhattan restaurant scene, owner Nino Selimaj humbly started his career as a dishwasher in a small eatery on East 58th Street—it’s the same street he fatefully finds himself returning to today, after developing a successful portfolio of much-cherished Italian gems like Nino’s Positano, Osso Buco, and Nino’s Tuscany. Assisting him with his first foray into Latin American cuisine is Chef Ricardo Cardona (Sazon, Sofrito, Mama Juana NY), whose twenty-five years of experience developing Manhattan’s Nuevo Latino scene have led him to this, his latest venture. Together, the duo bring their personality into each aspect of the restaurant’s execution, from food to ambiance to décor.casabe int2

           

The bi-level interior by Nick Grande offers an elegant bistro feel with a Latino flair, the space features a vibrant color palette with green and yellow hues, a tiled floor, and chic banquettes. Overall, the atmosphere can be best described as “modern with a tropical kiss.” There is a wonderful working fireplace, an elevated level by the window with a view of passersby and comfortable booths and tables.

It only takes a few steps into the restaurant to understand you’re in for a fun ride: from the salsa and bossa nova overhead to the warm Latin reception, the tone is set for an evening filled with sabor. Open your appetite with an artfully concocted drink at the Mojito bar upstairs—the Coco New York (Ciroc coco, Godiva white and crème de cacao) or the Yerbabuena (Red Peach Bacardi, Strawberry-kumquat puree, mint and lime) have proven to be early favorites. Then make your way towards the main dining room—where the show really begins.casabe drink1

            The menu revolves around refined Latin comforts, incorporating the diverse flavors of Latin America: the Caribbean, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Mexico all play major roles. Riffing off dishes that he’s custom created for the likes of Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, the Yankees, and Oscar de la Renta, Cardona bridges authentic flavors with a modern sensibility.

            Start with an upscale twist on tacquitos, or veer towards the Argentinean inspired empanadas, with fusion flavors like pork and sweet plantain or eggplant and goat cheese. Cuban Tamales get a similar haute treatment as the Tamalito con Langosta, served here with a lobster enchilado filling and topped with garlic and lime crema, sweet pepper, sofrito, and truffle oil. Call it umami or dub it delicioso—it’s a must-try no matter the language.

Equally successful are the Arepas, or sweet corn cakes, which bridge distinct Colombian and Jewish flavors (surprising to many, the two do overlap in many communities) when topped with smoked salmon, goat cheese, caramelized onions and fresh caper berries. And for its grand appearance towards the start of the meal, cassava makes a thick, sweet crust for the Camarones en Yuca: tall, towering tails of wrapped-up shrimp set atop a smooth passionfruit chili sauce.

Ceviches carry a singular ability to drive away the winter woes, especially with the tropical fruit flavors they incorporate. Tuna, for instance, gets “cooked” up in a Chipotle Pineapple Mojo, while Salmon is marinated in Aguachile, a reduction made with boiled serranos and jalapenos. Shrimp ceviche is made Ecuadorian style, with spicy fire roasted tomatoes and a shout of orange. Across the board, Cardona says, traditional flavors are “New Yorkified”—a process that both tames down excessive heat and plays up the sophistication quotient.

Cazuelitas are the perfect foray into the kitchen’s most substantial flavors—in Latin tradition, the cast iron skillets are both the cooking and serving vessel. Here, they’re filled with Filet Mignon cooked with red wine and cabrales, a strong Spanish blue cheese, or more casually, crab and spinach queso fundido, to be scooped up with an array of homemade malanga, yuca and plantain chips.casabe steak2

             But of course, it’s the entrees that drive home the joy and comfort of good Latin cooking. Bistec Latino, a beef paillard topped with balsamic and onion escabeche, will strike any Spanish speaker as reminiscent of home—kicked up a notch. With its accompaniments of sweet plantains, avocado, rice and beans, it’s the perfect example of Latin food done right. Salmon gets encrusted in yuca—and served atop a yuca manchego mash. With a dash of Coconut Creole sauce to invigorate familiar flavors, it’s a surprise twist to keep returning to. Perhaps the chef’s favorite dish, Cordero, yields a criss-crossed quartet of Frenched lamb chops, perfectly seared and served atop a colorful bean stew: a balance of indulgence and comfort.casabe steak

             A word to the wise: Save room for dessert. Turning savory ingredients into sweet superstars is a talent of the Casabe kitchen, where plantains become spongy bread pudding with caramelized chunks of freshly braised fruit, all topped with vanilla ice cream and a syrupy plantain sauce. It’s not unlike the more familiar banana variety—a pleasant surprise that makes sense, after all. Traditionalists may prefer the chocolate molten cake, enhanced here with cajeta—a condensed milk syrup—and chipotle. And for its final chorus, close the meal with just a little more cassava—this time in its sweet, ground form, so much more commonly known as tapioca. A Pina Colada inspired treat, the pearls are layered with fresh pineapple and shaved coconut like a bubble-based martini.

Casabe Bistro Latino is located at 208 E 58 Street in Midtown East, and is open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5PM to 11PM, Friday and Saturday from 5PM to 12AM, and Sunday from 5PM to 10PM.  Casabe is also open on weekdays for lunch from 12PM to 3PM. Brunch will launch in December. For reservations, please call (212) 750-7766 or visit www.casabeny.com

Copyright 2010 By PunchIn International. All Rights Reserved.

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Cooking Classes With Brazilian and Cuban Twist

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Favela Cubana, the new Brazilian/Cuban restaurant in Greenwich Village (543 LaGuardia Place — between Bleecker & West 3rd Streets)

For the first time, a Brazilian and a Cuban holiday entertaining cooking class, will be available 2 Mondays this month.  Executive Chef Oscar Santana, formerly at Soho Steak, Cercle Rouge, Provence, will be demonstrating traditional Brazilian and Cuban holiday dishes in the large kitchen downstairs.

Website: www.favelacubana.com

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Sazon Brings Style and Sabor to Tribeca

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Sazon is located in the heart of Tribeca at 105 Reade Street.

Open for Lunch Dinner and Brunch (Monday thru Friday 11:30am to 2:00am and Saturday 4:00pm to 2:00am, Sunday Brunch 11:00am – 4:00pm) and for late night dancing on (Friday and Saturday

For more information on private parties and reservations, call 212-406-1900 or visit http://www.sazonnyc.com/

By Nancy Walman

Brand new to the Tribeca dining scene is Latin gem Sazon, a sophisticated dual-level restaurant with refined Puerto Rican comfort food. The latest concept by JR Morales and the crew from popular uptown hotspot Sofrito, Sazon fills the niche for authentic Latin food served in a hip, celebratory atmosphere that brings the passion and easy-going hospitality of the islands to downtown Manhattan.

First impressions scream volumes about the quality and style of Sazon’s offerings. Designed by Stephane Dupoux (also of Buddha Bar, the Gansevoort Beach Club, and el San Juan Hotel), the restaurant’s dramatic high ceilings are well complemented by a bold color scheme of rich magenta, vibrant oranges, and Chiquita-banana yellows that energize and invigorate the space with the exotic feeling of the tropics. The dining room’s back wall, upholstered in hand-stitched orange tufted leather, creates a luxe modern backdrop for white minimalist tables, rustic wood accents evocative of the rainforest, and jet black crystal chandeliers that add a generous dash of glamour.

Anchoring Sazon’s visual focus is the bar, a mini-oasis made from a subtly arranged mosaic of white and off-white tiles that functions as the perfect place to grab a drink before dinner or after work. Cocktails like the San Juan Martini, which blends the flavors of orange liquer and white cranberry juice with cucumber puree, are sure to evoke el Caribe in all its splendor. Also popular are El Yunque, a drink blending watermelon juice and Elderflower essence with peach liqueur.

Those familiar with Morales’ first venture, Sofrito, know that his standards are set quite high when dealing with his menu and food; if it’s not as good as—or better—than what’s available on either island (Manhattan or Puerto Rico), it’s simply not good enough. This considered, it’s no surprise that Sazon’s menu outdoes itself course after course. Executive sazon-chef Chef Ricardo Cardona (formerly of Mama Juana, Hudson River, and Lua) brings a wide array of Puerto Rican-inspired dishes to the table, each with sophisticated preparations, modern presentations, and just the right dose of tropical flair. The chef who was in charge on our visit, Frank Maldonado, executes Cardona’s menu with care and the kitchen is capable of some outstanding appetizers such as crisp chicken chunks (Chicharrón de Pollo) and fabulous Buñuelos de Bacalao (Salty cod fritters).

Appetizers are perhaps the most creative section of the menu, ranging from sweet Surrillitos (corn fritters) served with a savory bacalao stew to Tortitas de Huelles, Puerto Rican yuca crabcakes topped with a robust corn salsa and garlic lemon aioli. Crispy fried Alcapurias are a surprising and innovative dish made by turning grated taro root and plantain into a masa that’s pressed onto paper, filled with beef picadillo, and rolled into flattened cigars. The flavor is at once sweet, savory, and even nutty—something completely unique and unusual.

A section of the menu titled “Pa’ Emperzar” or “To Start” features twists on traditional soups and salads, such as Sazon’s Chopped Salad which comes laden with shrimp, avocado, hearts of palm, farmer’s cheese, and yuca croutons. The Ensalada Tribeca bears grilled native vegetables with Caribbean roots, field greens, and a tangy passion fruit balsamic reduction that makes a truly addicting dressing.

The real strengths, however, lie in the main courses, in which Chef Cardona goes to great lengths to simply perfect the classics rather than recreate or re-imagine them. The Sazon Paella places emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients—lobster, chorizo, clams, shrimp, and saffron all come together to creamy perfection. A popular pairing of savory and sweet, the Pollito, which literally means “little chicken,” combines boneless roast Cornish hen with a stuffing of sweet plaintain and guava sauce, cooked to mouthwatering perfection. Meanwhile, sazon-pork-rib Pernil, Sazon’s signature dish, is not quite so dainty—it’s a feast on its own, consisting of three pounds of roast pork legs with pigeon pea rice and sweet plantains. If this doesn’t call to mind comida casera—homecooked Latin comfort food—nothing else will.

Desserts at Sazon are pretty as a picture not to be missed. Among them are street food favorites like Churros served with hot chocolate sauce and traditional treats like guava empanadas, stuffed with jam-like guava paste and cheese. Perhaps the most irresistible is the Tembleque—a hard-to-find regional specialty, it is essentially an eggless coconut flan with extra punches of flavor from cinnamon, diced strawberries, and pineapple. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth tropical paradise, and unlike anything else and a lovely cheese cake. Don’t slight the best café con leche imaginable. The is a nice, inexpensive wine list.

The party at Sazon keeps going beyond dessert—a lounge downstairs provides entertainment later into the evening with live music and private parties. The space, with its own separate bar and a more laid-back, relaxed feel, is set to be tagged by local artist James De La Vega, whose graffiti-inspired pieces and illustrated inspirational quotes have earned him the title of New York’s “Sidewalk Philosopher.”

The scene is loud, hot and inexpensive. Service is fancy (they put your napkin on your lap) and  the food is serious. A real yet unique downtown restaurant experience!

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Sofrito

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Sofrito

400 E 57 St. at First Avenue

Open for dinner from 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM on weeknights and from 4:00 PM – 2:00 AM on weekends, with late night music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday. For more information on private parties and reservations, call 212-754-5999 or visit www.sofritony.com.

Sofrito: The Secret Spice of the Upper East Side, Done With Authenticity and Class.

Sutton Place Will Never Be The Same

By Nancy Walman

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Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood just south of the Queensboro Bridge is Sofrito—one of the best-kept secrets and favorite hangouts on the East Side. Named for the Latin spice blend whose bright orange color heavily inspired the restaurant’s décor, Sofrito’s refined Puerto Rican food is authentic, affordable, and still decidedly hip—a recipe for success in any culture.

Sofrito is the brainchild of former detective JR Morales, whose endless supply of energy made it impossible for him to truly retire. Instead, he turned to his native culture to inspire a new chapter in his life, and thus Sofrito was born. Designed by Stephane Dupoux (also of Buddha Bar, the Gansevoort Beach Club, and Cielo), Sofrito is a sophisticated space which evokes the natural beauty of Puerto Rico with its grasscloth wallpaper, neutral color palette, and sculptural wood artwork. The restaurant has a uniquely hip feeling, with its sleek and almost futurist bar (the longest bar in the city, measuring up at 100 feet long) and De La Vega-tagged columns, each conveying cheeky truisms illustrated with funky designs. The flexibility of the space makes it easy to spend a whole night there—from dinner and drinks to dancing and music, Sofrito does it all.

Despite the detailed attention that went into crafting a perfect ambiance, Morales’ first priority for Sofrito was always executing great food. For that, he paired up consulting chef Ricardo Cardona (also of Mama Juana and Hudson River) with the young and talented Andres Ortega, whose perfect touch with spices and seasoning is what truly sets Sofrito’s food apart from its competitors.

A meal can begin with any of Sofrito’s signature Aperitivos and Pastelitos, which include flaky, crunchy Empanadas filled with ground beef or braised creole chicken; or Tostones Montaditos, fried savory plantains topped with shrimp, codfish, or octopus. Lighter appetites will delight in the Sofrito Chopped Salad, which comes laden with fresh mint, cilantro, queso blanco, and avocado, while Carne y Mariscos Fritos, or crispy fried pork, shrimp, and calamari are perfectly suited for those who really want to indulge.

Though a meal can certainly be made of Sofrito’s large array of appetizers, the Classic Dishes of Puerto Rico are the restaurant’s strongest suit, and are not to be missed. Pernil con Arroz, a large portion of moist chicken thigh seasoned for two whole days and served with rice, is as authentic as it gets. Mofongo, a dish made from yuca, bacon, and your choice of meat, is seasoned generously with garlic and olive oil and perfectly represents the Caribbean classic. Seafood, which plays a large role in Puerto Rican cuisine, makes its presence felt on the menu with a signature Puerto Rican style Sofrito Paella and Whole Red Snapper stuffed with Coconut Rice, evoking the comforts of flavors usually enjoyed exclusively while on vacation. It with the miraculous pork (see below) are the two best entrees, both priced at an amazing under $20.

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The Best (and Largest Portion) Pork You Will Ever Taste

Still, Sofrito appeals to the masses, widening the scope of its menu to include even the pickiest eaters. A free-range organic filet mignon and juicy Churrasco topped with chimicurri are both sensibly priced under $25, making them sensible options that feel like a real splurge. NOTE:

For some reason, the potato salad (more like a salad Russe) is the best in town.

Postres, or desserts, range from tropical to decadent. Empanaditas de Guayaba y Queso de Crema consist of guava paste and cream cheese stuffed inside piping hot crescents of sweet dough—a heaping portion seems big enough to share (and it is, though you likely won’t want to). Tres Leches (pictured below) is only mildly sweet but heavenly in its soft, spongy texture (the kind of dessert you have room for no matter how stuffed you already are) while a Pudin de Pan de Chocolate, or Chocolate Bread Pudding, is rich, gooey, and irresistibly topped with caramel and vanilla

ice cream.sofritoCAKE

Though Sofrito’s wine list is comprehensive and affordable, with many bottles under $40, it is their cocktails that truly make a splash. Morales claims that his sangria is the “best you’ve ever tasted,” thanks to some punchy additions, which include brandy, peach schnapps, melon liqueur, rum, and triple sec. It’s no wonder that it is listed on the cocktails menu rather than the wine list, alongside other drinks such as the Cocotini, a Puerto Rican favorite that blends Malibu Rum, Coconut Milk, and Pineapple Juice. Mojitos, such as the signature Sofrito Mojito (a blend of Rum, Malibu Passion, Passion Fruit Juice, Lime and Mint) are dangerously tasty, camouflaging the spirits with delicious tropical flavors—consider yourself warned.

The bar scene, which carries on late into the night, is accompanied by live Latin music five days a week. The Sofrito House Band, a five-piece group that plays musica sabrosa—merengue, salsa, bachata—plays live every Friday and Saturday, while Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays see a rotating cast of characters. Regulars are known to break into improvisational performance—and sometimes these impromptu performances feature the likes of Jaime Foxx, Marc Anothy, and Jennifer Lopez, who are all known to frequent Sofrito when in town.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Rating A Major

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Copyright 2009 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.

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Rompope, a Mexican version of Eggnog

The following is a recipe for Rompope which is a Mexican version of Eggnog.

It has been said that Rompope was created at a convent in Puebla during the Colonial Period. Rompope is a rich and creamy Mexican holiday classic that is enjoyed throughout the season.

 

Courtesy of Executive Chef and Culinary Director Patricio Sandoval, of restaurants: Mercadito/Mercadito Grove/Mercadito Cantina

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Rompope Recipe

Refrigerated, it will keep for a long period of time.

I N G R E D I E N T S
Makes 1-1/2 quarts

1 quart whole milk

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 canela (cinnamon bark) or 1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup ground almonds (not traditional)

12 egg yolks

2 cups light rum, or brandy

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Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve.

On December 31st starting at 9:30 pm, Mercadito, Mercadito Grove and Mercadito Cantina will offer special 3 and 4- course menus – making for a delicious way to ring in the coming year.

 

Mercadito (179 Avenue B between 11th and 12th Streets) and Mercadito Grove (100 Seventh Avenue South at Grove Street) will offer a 4-course menu for $50 (food only) or $100 (food and open bar). Enjoy a guacamole tasting, a ceviche or botona tasting, a tasting of their renowned tacos, and dessert in a fun and festive atmosphere featuring party favors and mariachi music.

Gather your friends and come down to Mercadito Cantina (172 Avenue B between 10th and 11th Streets) for a 3-course family style menu featuring a guacamole and salsa tasting, a taco, taquiza and side dish tasting, and dessert for only $40 (food only) or $80 (food and open bar) per person. Party favors will also be provided for guests, making this another great option for New Year’s Eve.

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Amor Cubano

Amor Cubanoamor-interior

 

Opening Date: December 2007

Location: 2018 Third Avenue (At 111th St.)
New York, NY 10029

Telephone: 212-996-1220
Fax: 212-996-7110

Website: www.amorcubanorestaurant.com
Email: info@amorcubanorestaurant.com

Owner: Mario Zarate
General Manager: Julio Quevedo
Chef: Vivian Baquero and Maricela Calcines Naranjo (Las Mamas Cubanas)

Capacity: 80

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 12pm-12am
Sunday 11am (Brunch)-12am

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Amor Cubano: A Cuban Delight

By Nancy Walman

amor-camarones al ajillo

Escape to a world of Cuban delicacies at Amor Cubano. In an authentic 1950’s Havana setting combines the classic golden age of Cuba with a young, hip and sexy atmosphere. The air is filled with dancing, singing and performance art while you dine on delicious Cuban cuisine at this truly unique restaurant. You don’t have to go to downtown to enjoy authentic home cooked Cuban delicacies and a slice of Havana anymore.

Now you can sample authentic home style Cuban cuisine against a A tropical Cuban setting like Havana that brings together both the classic golden age of Cuba with a younger, hip and sexy atmosphere full of music, dancing, singing and performance art. Even the help get into the act and you will too.

The food is terrific. Specialties include Ropa Vieja – Shredded skirt steak braised in a garlic sauce of fresh tomatoes sliced onions and peppers. Picadillo a la Habanera – Ground beef, green olives, raisins, onions and peppers. Fricase de Pollo – Chicken slowly cooked in a light tomato sauce with potatoes, vegetables. and some of the best appetizers in town (take a group and sample them all . . the menu follows). Specialty Cocktails include Traditional Mojitos, Ginger Mojitos, and the fabulous Amor Mojito – Made with the 23 year old Zacapa Rum.
Other libations offer El Manicero – Frangelico, chambord and butterscotch schnapps. Cojito-Coconut rum, muddle limes, macerated mint leaves topped with champagne. Mulata – Malta with Baileys.
Vampisol – Vodka, black raspberry liquor and cranberry juice.

There is a Live Band for Dinner and Brunch. The staff dances and sings for the guests throughout their dining experience. About every 45 minutes servers and bartenders break away from their tables to perform for the guests, bringing to life shows that are reminiscent of the Tropical and famous Cuban legends such as La Lupe, Rita Montaner, Desi Arnes and Beny More.

Amor Cubano is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and eminently affordable. Don’t miss the Tres Leches sponge cake soaked in three tantalizing milks for dessert.
www.amocubanorestaurant.com

Copyright 2008 by Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.

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