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 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, 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!