I try out lot of restaurants, so you can skip the bad ones. I’m thrilled to say that Oficina Latina is good to go. I was recently invited to a press dinner at Oficina Latina. It’s located in NoLita, which is a welcome change from the Upper West Side. The restaurant, like its neighborhood, is young, fresh, and super chevere!
I arrived on a Tuesday at around 7pm. There were a few people at the bar (nobody over 50). The vibe was warm, comfortable, and definitely reminiscent of the more upscale, swanky areas of Latin America.
I expected the owners to be Latin, but it turns out they are Italians who spent tons of time traveling throughout Latin America. I was told they fell in love with the culture which means New Yorkers were spared from yet another Italian restaurant (YAY!).
Although their cocktails looked impressive, and everyone at the bar was raving about them, I opted for am Argentinean rose sparkling wine. It was bone dry, but super fruity…just the way I like it. I was quite impressed by their wine and spirits program. Only one boring vodka (because you kinda have to have it), and lots of Latin spirits like Aguardiente and pisco.
Once everyone arrived, we sat at one of the tables in the back. The chairs were low and comfortable. The lights were dim, but not so dim that you could not read the menu. We were getting off to a good start.
Our first dish was the pulpo a la parrillada (grilled octopus with cilantro dressing served on a potato celery salad). Did someone tell them I LOVE tentacles? If so, I’m glad they did. The octopus was tender and flavorful. I think it was my favorite dish of the evening. It was served with Cartagena Chilean Riesling. It was dry, crisp, and a perfect pairing for the dish.
Croquetas de cangrejo came out next. These pan seared crab cakes were served with chipotle sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and tomatoes. Quite nice. I’d select the octopus over the croquettes, but I certainly would not send them back. These were served with my favorite grape, Torrontes. Two for two on the wines.
I kept thinking how good the abrebocas would be if I was hungover. This is ultimate Latin comfort food. The dish included fried morcilla (mmm blood sausage), chorizo, and itty-bitty super snackable arepitas. I could have eaten a whole plate of arepitas. The Morcilla had a slight sweetness that was quite pleasant. I like the skin on the morcilla slightly crunchier, but that’s just a personal thing. This was a kick ass plate.
The pincho de cordero was my least favorite of the dishes (one of them had to be). I love my meats medium-rare…closer to bloody, and these were definitely cooked to medium temperature. This said, the flavors were still there.
We ended the savory dishes with a super tender jarrete de cordero. The lamb shank was braised in wine and served with sweet plantain puree. I’m not a fan of sweet plantain puree, but I have to admit it was very well prepared. Again, we had another wining wine pairing. This time they brought out a Tannat, powerful, red and tannic to cut through the lamb shank.
To finalize the evening, they brought out two desserts. First the Marquesa de chocolate (a chocolate pudding layered with vanilla cookies). It was paired with the passion and love shot. Let’s just say that this is dessert even the Grinch would love. It was rich without being overly sweet and the Nilla style cookie added a lovely touch of texture and taste. The shot of Santa Teresa rum was brought out in a sort of beaker to be poured into our shot glasses. We were instructed to dip our orange wedges into lines of cane sugar, cinnamon, and coffee. I have to say, I’d go back for this shot.
Did I mention the limoncello granita. It immediately took me back to my childhood in Ibague. I can’t wait for summer to come around so I can stop by Oficina Latina to enjoy these and take a break from the heat.
24 Prince Street -NoLita – New York (646) 381-2555
January 22nd, 2013