Several months ago we visited Macondo, a place that brings together all the best Latin street foods on a very unique menu. Since then, it has been our goal to take the journey a few blocks down to Rayuela (165 allen st. b/t rivington and stanton/ 212-253-8840).
Rayuela and Macondo have two things in common, the owners and the fact that they are both named after the novels of renowned South American writers. While a little pricier and more upscale, Rayuela introduces Estilo Libre Latino (Freestyle Latino), which respects yet redefines traditional Latin American and Spanish dishes. We were very excited to experience exactly what this meant, and thanks to the economy, we were able to take advantage of a super extended restaurant week (now extended through labor day).
To start off, we ordered a classic. Though the journey beyond burritos is meant to explore the less common Latin food elements, we could never avoid the guacamole; especially when the guacamole is mixed with fresh crab meat, a gratifying start!
Next, our heavenly appetizers arrived. The albondigas de cordero (lamb meatballs) were tender and juicy. With each bite, I scooped up some sprinkled bacon bits, asparagus and the delicious truffle-tetilla sauce. It's quite frustrating that licking your plate is not acceptable in this type of social setting.
As usual Jaquie and I split everything, starting with the carica tejada (chilean papaya stuffed with duck confit). I discovered chilean papaya at pomaire, NYC's only Chilean restaurant. As I mentioned in pomaire's post, chilean papaya tastes like what a super refined canned mango/peach would taste like if it existed. I say canned only because it has the same texture but less sweet and without the syrup. The combination of the shredded, moist duck meat and the papaya made for a memorable creation.
The Entrees arrived at the perfect time as our appetizers had settled in our bellies and our cocktails were nearing an end. My fork naturally dove towards the crispy skin of the Chilean sea bass. The fish was perfectly cooked with the skin crisped up separately and set on top. We both feel that crispy skin should be served like this everywhere. Jaquie's exact words were "This might be my favorite seafood dish ever!" Enough said.
The roast pork was similar to pork I have tasted at several Latin eateries and alone was tasty but somewhat average. Yet when the pork was combined with the mole, mashed potatoes and goat cheese, its richness was revealed.
We ended with a couple of desserts. I added the molten lava cake picture because it looks amazing. It probably would have been amazing if the inside had actually been molten. I'm assuming that it was not prepared correctly.
The crema de requeson (cheese custard with olive compote and basil mousse) was another story. We were only going to share one dessert but our waiter, who was from my hometown of Manizales, insisted that we try this courtesy of him. We thanked him like five times for introducing us to this wonderful treat. I had no words to describe it but Jaquie says it’s like cheesecake custard on crack with a little surprise at the bottom. And she was pretty excited that she got to try a dessert that encompassed basil as she had recently seen this on Bravo TV's Top Chef Masters (click here for the recipe).
All in all, a great restaurant with a truly unique vision on all Latin ingredients.