| September 11, 2012

Cuba Raises It’s Flag in Alphabet City

An unassuming Wednesday night brought me down to the East Village of New York City—the mission—Cuban Food. The result—a night that will forever live in my heart as THE NIGHT that I discovered Cuban food for the first time.

As a writer who considers myself fairly well traveled, I have experienced many Cuban restaurants—let me re-phrase—many restaurants purporting to serve ‘traditional’ Cuban food. After my recent experience at Cafecito, it appears  that  nothing  could  be  further   from  the   truth.  Everything   fromthe open-air environment, to the spicy music, to the hospitality, righteously resonated with a true ethnic experience that sincerely caught me off guard.

After some of the best cocktails that our fair city has to offer, including killer homemade Sangria and Mango Margaritas, we eagerly dove  into  the  appetizer offerings. Yes, all  of  the  usual  suspects  were there—empanadas, ham croquettes and a unique slider with a
a pattie endowed with 20% chorizo—but it was the delivery of the shrimp swimming in a garlic sauce that first set me back on my heels. Now, I need to note, the appetizers were extraordinary and set the bar rather high, but as this masterpiece of a meal progressed, it seemed hard to remember just how good the last dish had been.

The Ceviche made with jumping fresh Pollock, was done exactly right. Here’s the difference…. when restaurants get lazy, they will prepare a ‘batch’ of Ceviche for the night—letting the beautiful fresh fish swim in the acidic component of lime juice for way too long, creating a toughness that simply ruins the point of the fresh fish experience. Not here! Every serving is cut and tossed to order, delivering a taste of the ocean that is incomparable. Slide this treat onto some housemade fried plantain slices dusted with sea salt and you are indeed in foodie heaven!

The main event was delivered with a humble elegance that ignited our expectations even more. The Skirt Steak with a house-made chimichurri sauce was a true delight that set the standard for the next phase of our enlightenment. Moving on to the Pork Shank, which just before serving is flash-fried to create a crispy outside shell for the juicy treat  inside, articulated  exactly  why this is  the favorite of  Manny, the proprietor and our host this evening. However, for me, the take away was certainly the Chilean Sea Bass with a pepper rum glaze set atop a mango  habanera sauce. The pepper rum  glaze puts the ‘O’ in bold and  will kick start your taste  buds and  bring  the image of twirling dresses to your mind’s eye—truly exceptional.

If the best flan on the planet could speak for the entire meal, it would say this… “I know you’ll be back!” Posers beware—this is the real thing!