This may be my first taste of South American food but it certainly won't be my last. It could be described as a fusion of American Chinese and Italian with a little bit of heat but that's not quite the right description. I didn't see anything with tomato but they did use several different preparations of corn that I hadn't seen before. One was a corn beer sauce that sounded good but I didn't try it this time, the other sounded like masa. They had tamales on the menu too but I didn't try that either. The thing that stood out to me was how much different it was to Central American cuisine. No tacos, no tortillas and only a little touch of heat. Just a little bit though, certainly nothing like TexMex. Let's call it mellow and delicate but not bland.
We started with an empanada filled with plantains and cheese. You might not think those sound good together but they really are a delicacy. The corn pastry dough was a little crispy and had some tooth to it but not tough. It was a little greasy on the plate but didn't really taste greasy. The plantains were soft and sweet like a banana which I didn't expect as the plantains I've tried before weren't very sweet but I think they were just fried. Speaking of fried plantains, you get a little plate of them with a wonderful sauce to dip instead of corn chips and salsa. The dip was something like cilantro and a little garlic in a crema type base. It might have been sour cream but there really wasn't that acidic twang you would expect and it didn't have the taste of mayonnaise. That dip was one of the stars of the show.
Steph ordered the Pabellon Criollo ( Pulled Beef with Beans and Rice ) and I ordered the Arroz con Mariscos ( Seafood and Rice ). Steph liked the dish but wasn't completely thrilled with the texture of the meat. It was very flavorful and stewed in a spicy, but not hot, broth but it was a little stringy. Personally I thought it was good but I only had one bite. The black beans were just that and the rice was plain too. She loved the fried ripe plantains, they were just like the ones inside the empanada. In the end Steph just wanted a few tortillas to wrap around the meat. I guess South American dishes aren't served with some notion of bread.
I loved the Seafood and Rice dish, Arroz con Mariscos. It was like the traditional Italian Frutti De Mare on top of a bed of risotto with vegetables. They served up a huge plate and while I gave it the old college try it looked like I hadn't even touched my plate. The seafood was cooked nicely with shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari and fish. There were a few pieces, the calamari I suspect, that were a little chewy but I think all calamari is chewy. Comment below if you feel differently. The vegetables were pretty standard; corn; carrots; peas. They said it had seaweed in it but I didn't notice or miss it. I loved the creamy rice and the spices as they mixed with the pieces of seafood. The dish had just a hint of heat but they certainly let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Another hit of the night was the iced tea. It wasn't just Lipton's in a glass, this stuff was a flavorful mix of fruit juices. Not too sweet and not too strong mind you just a nice flavor that would have gone well with a shot of barrel aged rum.
If you like TexMex but can't take the spice anymore you might find these South American dishes the perfect substitute and if you like good food then you definitely want to give them a try. Great food, great prices, great service. Oh, if you plan to order something not like it is written on the menu be sure to bring your Spanish hat because you'll need it.
And to that I say, Adios Mi Amigos!