From crisp croquetas de jamon to beef-filled empanaditas, the Cuban-style tapas at Agozar Restaurant and Lounge come flavored with the same rich, Caribbean spices that fill the childhood memories of its co-owners, siblings Gerardo Perez and Diana Mastrodimos.
?We?re from a Cuban family, [with] a Cuban grandma," Perez said. "We lived in Miami for some time, so we had traditional Cuban food almost every day. Our dad also worked in Cuban restaurants in NYC, like Victor?s Cafe, so we had that upbringing."
But in recent years, the brother-and-sister team has expanded their menu beyond the classics they remember from childhood. Today, they also serve "Nuevo-Cubano" dishes that draw on influences from Spain, Mexico, and even China, reflecting the full cultural diversity of modern Cuban cuisine.
Dishes to Discover
Those familiar with Cuban cuisine will easily recognize classic dishes at Agozar, including pressed cubaniche sandwiches, shredded ropa vieja, and citrus-marinated lechon. But there are dishes here that may surprise even the most seasoned palate. A few highlights:
Ginger-glazed "Chino-Cubano" salmon with vegetable fried rice
In the Press
* New York Magazine recommends the tapas-like small plates, which are "vibrant with spices and emboldened by fresh ingredients." * The New York Times notes the spot's "lengthy list of flavored mojitos," which draw in muddled-drink enthusiasts and also people who love to read lengthy lists.
At Mojito Cuban Cuisine, chefs parade platters of Caribbean classics and tropical cocktails through a rustic, airy lounge. At the rough-hewn wooden bar, bartenders shake up the eatery’s namesake cocktail, a mojito crafted from a recipe indigenous to Havana’s famed La Bodeguita del Medio. Brick walls, exposed ceiling beams and faded blue hues lend Mojito a vibe that New York magazine describes as “scenester-friendly and warmly inviting.”
Amor Cubano captures the delicious essence of Cuban cuisine with sumptuous brunches, lunches and dinners of juicy steaks, tender stewed meats, and tasty cocktails. Plates of grilled chorizo, flavorful ropa vieja, and mouthwatering plantains invite taste buds to a sizzling culinary salsa dance, and fresh mussels, shrimp, and fish serenade palates with Spanish-language sea shanties. Throughout the restaurant, brick accents and artwork sate optic appetites, and regular live Latin music and dancing keep toes tapping to exotic rhythms.
In 2002, entrepreneur Jeremy Merrin teamed with fellow restaurant mogul Arlene Spiegel and head chef Stanley Licairac to establish Havana Central, a family-friendly enterprise based on lively Latin music and the rich flavors of Cuban cuisine. The food of Cuba draws from disparate influences across the globe⎯Spanish, French, African, Chinese, and indigenous cultures⎯manifesting into tender skirt-steak ropa vieja, empanadas stuffed with savory meats and goat cheese, and salmon, chicken, and shrimp marinated in tangy citrus juices.
Though the restaurant's leafy palms and tropical cocktails hint at the freewheeling good times of 1950s Havana, the staff pairs their joie de vivre with social responsibility, specifically by donating to local charities and taking on numerous green initiatives. As guests sip mojitos and sangria and sup upon slow-roasted meats and chicken sofrito, a lineup of live entertainment keeps feet moving in rhythm. Interactive events include salsa-dance lessons, charanga bands, and reenactments of the charge up San Juan Hill.
As lively Latin music plays, guests?including celebrities such as P. Diddy?sidle up to white-clothed tables to eat large portions of Sofrito Puerto Rican Cuisine?s authentic oxtail soup, fried green plantains, and skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. They can also visit the bar area, where bartenders make specialty cocktails out of fresh fruit in front of a blue-backlit bar. DJ sets and live music keep guests entertained every night of the week, and a strict dress code?no sneakers or hats?ensures that diners do not impersonate professional baseball players.
At Label 7, fresh ingredients such as crisp shaved fennel and gruyere cheese garnish entrees inspired by the light, healthy cuisine of California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Wicker chairs flank tables in the softly lit indoor dining room. Oversized white flowerboxes stand guard along the perimeter of a canal-side patio, where a brigade of umbrellas shields patrons from splashing during nearby diners’ attempts to literally wade through the wine list.