The warm weather this past week (along with the Book Expo America at the Javits Center) brought The Sofrito Girls together for some catching up. As usual, the Girls leave it to me to come up with restaurant reservations, and after some very strong suggestions from the ever tireless Carola (my assistant), and their win for Most Creative Paella at the 3rd Annual Paella Parade at Pier 17 last Monday, I made our dinner arrangements at Nuela in the Flat Iron district.
(From left to right) Daisy, Loni, Violette, Esmeralda
The Sofritos are a pretty energetic, vocal group (ahem!), but when it comes to ordering in a restaurant, they pretty much defer to me, so without much fanfare, I started the evening’s culinary adventure with a variety of appetizers.
We started out with a delicious short rib empanada garnished with hardboiled eggs that was chunky, savory, and delicious with a slightly tangy-sweet finish. The crust was tender and flaky and the Sofritos agreed that this was a definite candidate for the Empanada Hall of Fame. Okay, we were off to a seriously good start, but could the rest of the evening still inspire the oohs and ahhs that our first appetizer elicited? We were about to ofind out!
Causa with Charred Octopus
Pork Belly with Arepas and Charred String Bean-Ramp “Chimichurri”
White Asparagus “Ajiaco”
Hamachi Tiradito with Miso-Yuzo leche de tigere and fermented garlic
Ceviche Misco Mixto
Ahi Tuna Ceviche with 3 Radishes and Yuzu
When trying a new restaurant, I always like to go heavy on the appetizers because it’s a great way (in my humble opinion) to get a feel for the kitchen. This is where I may start to wax poetic. The empanada was delicious…the causa was so good I was looking for someone to beat! The potato aspect was perfectly seasoned with enough aji amarillo to make it interesting without being overpowering and the charred octopus on top was not typical but absolutely brilliant. The pork belly was delicate (sous vide) perfectly crisped on one side, but the accompanying stringbean and ramp chimichurri had us calling for the waiter to find out what exactly was in it becuase it was amazing! The white asparagus ajiaco was ephemereal but exploded with flavor when sippewith a dollop of avocado puree that was hidden in the soup. The trio of ceviches we ordered were pristinely fresh, artfully presented, and expertly seasoned. YUM!
One would think, “How much can these girls eat?”, but the truth of the matter is that the portions were perfect for sharing, so we were able to experience the dishes without getting uncomfortably full…plus, we still had our entrees and dessert to go! The menu sports a number of “for two” dishes, and I ordered 2 of them (go know!), the Arroz con Pato, and the Cochinillo, and added the Lobster Moquca because…well because!
Cochinillo Platter with Guava BBQ Sauce, Flatbread and white rice
Arroz con Pato
*Roll up my sleeves*…the cochinillo was served with crispy flatbread, and tangy-chunky guava sauce and some fluffy white rice. It was tender, moist and delicious (although I still think Puerto Rican lechoncito still kicks butt!), and served with a large piece of crackled, laquered pork skin (cuerito). The Arroz con Pato is served in a paellera with a slice of foie gras , along with a duck leg/thigh confit that our maitre’d, Ciji divided between us. He then proceeded to scrape up the “pegao” or xocorrat from the bottom of the pan, and break up the fried duck egg up into the whole thing…that might have been right around the time I started to have hot flashes! It was too incredible to describe, but I can tell you this: I have not been able to think of anything else since! By the time we got to the Lobster Moqueca, I was seriously thinking that this might well become a favorite, regular spot for me, and the lobster cemented it! Tender, juicy, , and sweet, the dish was garnished with toasted coconut curls and a beautiful coconut scented sauce. Can you say O-M-G?!
Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Sorbet
Tres Leches with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
Chocolate Terrine with Caramelized Bananas
The Girls almost begged off dessert, but I convinced them to try to work through the pain, lol. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say that the “popcorn sauce” on the Tres Leches dessert was out of this world and kept me going back to the plate for more. The chocolate terrine was luxurious and rich, and the caramelized bananas were a perfect complement. We pushed the empty plates away and sighed with satisfaction just as Executive Chef Adam Schop came to the table to say hello. Adam rocks a CIA pedigree as well as some mad sexy ink and there is no questioning his chops in the kitchen! We thanked him profusely for an amazing evening.
Churros and Chocolate
Ciji informed us that we were not quite through, to our surprise, and he made a beautiful plate of mini alfajores, dulce de leche cookies, appear at our table as if by magic! They pratically melted in your mouth, but Ciji’s bag of tricks was not empty yet; he told us that in Colombia, where he is from, a lady’s evening is not complete until they have churros, chocolate and champagne…bring it, Ciji!!
I mentioned to Chef Adam that I was trying to think of an excuse to return to Nuela next week, to try everything I had missed on the menu…he looked at me, winked and said, “Why wait until next week?!” Why, indeed, Chef!
43 West 24th Street btwn 5th and 6th Avenue
212 929 1200
Open for lunch…closed on Monday