Well, it’s not written by me and it’s not about Brooklyn…but better yet, it’s from my dear friend Jose Rodriguez describing his great foodie weekend on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and I obtained his permission to share with you. Take it away Jose! :-)
My wife Mary and I went to Suba (109 Ludlow Street between Rivington and Delancey Street, 212.982.5714) this afternoon but it was just before 5pm and they had not opened yet. The chef was also making his way in when we showed up and he told us to come back in one hour…when he saw the disappointment in my face he offered to give us a tour of the place.
The bar is open and well stocked; the downstairs dining area is located on a platform that sits on top of a pool…the sound of the water and the reflection of the light against the water gave it that perfect “hidden undiscovered urban hideaway spot” that I so love. I chatted briefly with the staff downstairs about their newly found attention from the “foodies” and they commented how much of an artist their new chef is.
Next on our journey was Rayuela (165 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington, 212.253.8840). We were supposed to go next week but I couldn’t wait and decided to go today to see what the buzz is all about. We got there at 5:00pm, 30 minutes before they started taking orders for dinner.
We sat at the bar and had a few drinks. For what I’ve read so far their drinks and ceviches are pretty good and they did not disappoint. I had a Mezcal (ginger, jicama, pineapple, Maria Mezcal, Cointreau, $11) based on Quetzal, a Mexican drink made out of Agave leaves (Agave is where tequila comes from); it was infused with several citrus juices giving it a rather tropical twist. I loved it. The ginger and the Cointreau in it were dancing tango atop my taste buds! And the Rye (guava, lemon, agave nectar, mint leaves, Michter’s Straight Rye, Becherovka, $11) was delicious according to the couple sitting next to us at the bar.
To add to my amusement, the bartender was an old acquaintance of mine whom I have not seen in a few years and whose mother is a chef who worked with Douglas Rodriguez at the now defunct OLA and Chicama. Small world! The chef, Maximo Tejada, who also worked with Douglas Rodriguez at those restaurants as well as Patria, came to the bar when we were seated there. I did not know him prior to today. He came to ask something to the bartender…when he saw him talking to me and my wife he asked us if everything was alright. I think that was nice.
Mary and I shared a Siete Potencia Ceviche which contains seven different delicacies from the sea (lobster, shrimp, scallop, crab, clams, mussels and octopus in a green tomatillo sauce, $16). As I was having it I was having flashbacks of a sunny day at the beach with good friends and great music :) I guess it is safe to say that the bar alone is a destination.
Moving on to the restaurant, they serve the Colombian bread that I used to love at Patria and had heard they had them at Rayuela. And…oh my God…those rolls..! I think the bible refers to them as Manna! :) I am sure this is what rained down to the Israelis fleeing Egypt as depicted in the Scriptures :) I asked the waitress to please keep them coming…she was pretty good about that. She was Chinese by way of Colombia and spoke perfect Spanish.
Next I had an appetizer called Mofongo Balls (Bolas de Mofongo, Green plantain ball with onions and bacon served with pork vaca frita, $11). Mofongo is a typical Puerto Rican and Dominican dish made out of mashed plantains and some spices; they took Mofongo a step further by making little balls with it, stuffing them with meat and frying them. The flavors deconstructed in my mouth like a down tempo salsa song that works up a danceable beat after a few minutes…amazing!
My entree was the Rib Eye a la Parrilla ($27), with was pretty juicy and served with truffle trumpet polenta and a salad. The meat was so tender and its juices so well contained and balanced that I decided right then and there to start celebrating my birthday which is still a week away :)
My wife had the Crispy Pork (Cuban pork with arroz con gandules, sweet plantain and grilled pineapple mojo, $24) which by far was the best I have ever tasted. It came with what we call Moro (rice and gandules cooked together). It was simply delicious!
I was a little bit deflated with the desserts though. I had a layered chocolate cake which was rather dry and lacked moisture; none of the desserts stood out from the menu…I think I am going to skip them altogether next Friday when I return :-)
I also checked out Spitzer’s Corner (101 Rivington Street between Essex and Ludlow, 212.228.0027)….if you like beer this is the place to go. They have a huge selection of beers, from light and crisp to the heavy, chocolatey, hoppy variety. It is unpretentious, fun and has a decent selection of bar food (one of the best fries in a 10-mile radius!)
As you can see, I’ve been around this holiday weekend :) Take care!