Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NY Restaurant Review: Yerba Buena

Finally my genius boyfriend figured out how to recover the photos our other computer ate! What would I do without 24-7 free tech support? Now I can tell you all about my NY dining experiences and make use of the zillion pictures I took!

I was a bit iffy about making reservations at two Latin restaurants in a row, and I have to admit, I agonized over where to eat on Saturday night because no place had the magical combination of a concept that jumped out at me, availability and reasonable prices. So it was Thursday before I ever got around to making reservations, and I picked Yerba Buena from the list of restaurants I'd read about. Boy am I glad I did because it was actually my favorite of the weekend.
The restaurant is on Ave. A, but unlike it's often grungy neighbors, it's laid back and chic with dark wood and low lighting. Despite being small and crowded, we had plenty of space to comfortably seat 4 and actually hear each other talk. Not an easy thing to come by at a hot new restaurant!
We started with some of their top notch cocktails. The list is heavy on Latin ingredients like cachaca and pisco. The boyfriend opted for a dark and stormy, one of my favorites, which is often hit or miss. Fortunately this one was great, as was my intriguing combo of pisco and guava puree in the appropriately named Pisco Guava cocktail.

Our table decided to star with the picada, a combination of various traditional Latin dishes including fried yucca, spicy chorizo, tostones (twice fried plantains) and chicharron (fried pork rind and belly). Healthy, right? Although none of the items really stood out, it was a good sharable nibbly to whet our appetites.
The boyfriend and I decided to share two main courses. The first, the Costilla were malbec beef short ribs served with papas a la provenzal and pomegranate yerba mate glaze. Short ribs seem to be on every high end menu these day, but I contend it's for good reason - they're fricking delicious. These were melt in your mouth succulent and the pomegranate offered an appealing burst of tart juice to contrast the hearty beef.
Even better, though, was the Lechon, suckling pig served with yucca puree, habanero mojo de ajo and chicharron. I often veer away from pork on menus because I worry it will be bland, but this pork was beyond delicious. I'm talking, one of the best meals I've had this year delicious. The habanero mojo provided just the right citrusy kick to keep the meat moist and so yummy I wish I didn't have to share it. The chicharron provided a bacony sort of crunch that kept each bite interesting. Good lord, where can I get something like this stuff in Atlanta?
For dessert, the four of us split the tres leches cake, which was served with grilled pineapple salsa and raspberry sauce, and the pastel de chocolate, a Mexican chocolate cake served with tequila blueberry sauce and chocolate chip ice cream. Both sounded like unique takes on standard desserts. They were of course quite tasty, and we ate every last bite, but I can't say they really stood out for me. It's the entrees where Yerba Buena really excels.
Lest I forget, the service was also above and beyond gracious. They went so far as to allow my friend to sample various wines before choosing one, and the servers and management were charmingly flirty. What's not to love about this place?

If you're in NY and looking for a fun and reasonably priced (by NY standards not so much by Atlanta's!) restaurant with drool-worthy food, definitely visit Yerba Buena. I loved it!

Pros: stellar entrees (especially the suckling pig!), great ambiance, charming and attentive service
Cons: a bit out of the way on Ave. A

Yerba Buena
23 Avenue A (cross at 2nd St.)
New York, NY 10009

Yerba Buena on Urbanspoon



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