What if you can bring together all the best latin street foods in the world and place them in a seductive restaurant?
157 E. Houston St.
(between Allen and Eldridge)
Named after the fictional town from one of my favorite books One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Macondo brings a new form of freestyle Latino cuisine while adding flair to traditional street foods from Latin America and Spain. Though the food is customized, it maintains the essence that makes these dishes world renowned.
The decor is awesome and made me instantly feel comfortable. Macondo has a modern Latin style and lends a market feel by using typical Latin food products as part of the decoration. This seems to be a trend. Check out Kuba Kuba in Richmond.
My friend Carlos had been meaning to try the place out. I figured his birthday would be a good excuse to try more than the usual amount of selections on the Brunch menu. We started with some cocktails, bloody Maria's and guanabana mimosas. Guanabana (soursop) makes my favorite fruit juice so it's a must anytime I see it on a menu. Later on, we tried sangria and a unique avocado margarita which has a creamy soothing taste. The beverages were fantastic but our main purpose was the food...
We decided to eat tapas style so everyone could taste each dish.
The papas bravas (mad potatoes) were fried great. Just the right layer of crispy on the outside and the spices seemed to seep inside to create an all around perfect papa. with rich aioli sauce layered to make an exceptional start.
On to the quinoa salad. Quinoa is a highly nutritious grain that is native to the Andes. Throughout history, quinoa was never fully accepted by Europeans and so never became popular. As noted in google trends, quinoa is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. The size and popping remind me of fish eggs though it tastes like a combination of couscous and rice. Macondo prepares it just right.
I don't want to brag but everyone's favorite entree was by far the Colombian inspired breakfast. Though not authentic, the Benedict Colombiano had the right elements of a traditional arepa breakfast plus some unique ones that are unusual for a Latin restaurant. Either way it was ridiculously amazing. The toasty corn arepa was topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and safron lemon allioli. I would swim across the east river to get my hands on the recipe for that allioli.
Second favorite were the enchiladas de pollo in sweet poblano mole sauce, this time Mexico comes in second place. Sorry Jaquie.
The mole really did make this dish exquisite. I don't recall but I might have dipped my finger in the leftover sauce and licked it. Oh c'mon like you haven't done that before.
In third place but still really pleasing were the chilaquiles with chicken and salsa verde (green) topped with cream cheese. Chilaquiles were a first time for Carlos, not really a big fan of soggy tortillas. Truth is you have to eat them hot and this dish came out warm. Cream cheese may also have been an easy way out.
The isla mangu, which we all thought was going to take the gold medal was acceptable but not exceptional. Carlos pointed out that the mangu tasted like mofongo. Mangu is usually mashed boiled plantains served with sausage and cheese. Mofongo is mashed fried plantains mixed with bacon bits and other ingredients which is what Macondo's "mangu" closely resembles.
We had churros with blueberries and a side of hot chocolate for desert. A favorable way to close of the meal.
Overall, Macondo respects the traditional street foods of Latin America while customizing every element in a commendable way. The environment is fun, the people are nice and satisfied faces draped the dining tables.
We met the manager and he recommended we visit Macondo's sister restaurant, Rayuela. I took a glance at the menu and immediately two items stood out.
1. Vieras con Huitlacoche Grilled scallops with huitlacoche valencia rice with crabmeat corn salad and a truffle poblano sauce
2. Codorniz con Lentejas
Roasted quail with a stew of pork belly, apples and black lentils. Served with a quail egg and crispy shallots
Oh yea... Rayuela deserves a visit.