Monday, May 11, 2009

Salud: Pan Latin near the Seaport

New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet there are very few blocks that make you feel like you’re outside of New York. If you have lived here as long as I have, you know that sometimes you need to feel AWAY from the hectic Big Apple. The South Street Seaport is one of those places. I always feel like I’m on vacation when I’m there, so it was the perfect suggestion when Jaquie's cousins were in town.

To gain some energy before our touristy walk, we ventured into a nice Pan Latino restaurant that we have visited a few times in the past. Salud (144 Beekman St. New York, NY/(212) 566-2220) has a very clean Habana style atmosphere, painted white with dark brown furniture and palm trees. On Thursdays they even have a happy hour live salsa band. Excellent to listen to while sipping Mojitos!

We decided to go Tapas style and ordered two pre-fixes and a few additional dishes. There were too many on the table to mention them all, so I highlighted the collective favorites. First off were the complimentary plantain chips, which are freshly made with a side of the most unbelievable bean dip I've ever tasted. This black bean dip has just the right combination of garlic, salt, and who knows what other seasoning, to start your meal on the right track.

Next were the gourmet Cuban sandwiches, Cubanitos. These little heavenly bites taste as good as they look. The ingredients seemed carefully chosen and measured to upgrade this classic Cuban meal. The bread was soft and lightly toasted, gently soaking up the mayonnaise and mustard that wrap around the pickles. It makes me wonder why all delis don't have this sandwich on their menu. I'm sure a few sandwich chains would make a killing with this mini "sub".

Now, my stomach growls as I write this and recall how they cooked the Argentinean EntraƱa (skirt steak) so perfect.
It was by far everyone's favorite! I'm trying not to downplay the other dishes, but the truth is that we ordered two more servings of this plate and both were as if they had been cloned by scientists. Juicy on the inside with the right amount of crisp all around, it was seasoned to perfection and topped with an astonishing chimmichurri sauce. See a previous Argentinian themed post for a similar recipe. They were each served with yuca (cassava) that was overloaded with garlic, which is exactly my taste.

We also had chicken wings, steak on skewers with garlic toast and a tomato-ey shrimp ceviche. Everything was exceptional except for the ceviche. While pretty tasty, the ceviche was overwhelmed by the tomato sauce and resembled a shrimp cocktail.

Mixed with the other salty dishes were the piononos, which added a sweet note to the meal. These sweet plantains were skillfully stuffed with beef and Monterrey jack cheese and topped with a bit of sour cream. Yes, they look beautiful. Yes, they tasted great.

It's quite difficult to eat these dishes tapas style. Sharing a little bit of everything is a mental struggle as you force your hands and mouth to keep from stuffing your face. You have to look beyond each particular dish and realize that each plate has its wonders and you must be patient to leave room for everything to come.

The desserts were also remarkable. Rice pudding with Ron con Pasas (rum and raisins) and a unique flan drizzled with sweet cream. The pictures say it all. That’s all I can say for now, since this has caused me to salivate beyond what is normal. For all you aspiring food writers, try not to write on an empty stomach. "Jaquie, let's get something to eat!!"

Salud Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon