Wednesday, May 27, 2009
La Vuelta - Bird's the Word
La Vuelta - 10-43 44th Drive, Long Island City NY 11101
7 Train to 45th Road/Courthouse Square or E/V Train to 23rd/Ely Avenue
I've been hearing a lot about La Vuelta, a small Latin Bistro in LIC, which has been around for a couple of years. A group of us including my brother Peter, cousin Vicky, Eric, Dan and I ventured over there after an evening at Dutch Kills.
Simple is the theme here and while there isn't much to look at, it feels comfortable and lived in. I like the exposed brick walls, which make the space feel cozy, as well as the sparse Latin art on the walls.
Despite the welcoming interior, we headed straight to the outdoor garden, as it was a lovely, warm night out. The outdoor area was charming, nice and spacious with about 10 sizeable tables for small-medium groups. I liked that it was somewhat quiet, and that we didn't have trouble hearing ourselves talk, which could sometimes be a problem in small outdoor areas.
The menu at Vuelta offers a mix of Latin flavors with a plethora of chicken dishes--a food, which they excel in. Everyone ordered it except for me, and I had food envy after my underwhelming choice of paella.
Mixed Empanada Platter - This was a great choice for a group, as we all got to have our fair share of almost every empanada flavor. My favorite was the pulled pork, with smoky BBQ sauce and onion. The pastry crust on all of these was crunchy and flaky, albeit a little greasy. Both of our dipping sauces of pico de gallo and guacamole were delicious, my preference lying a bit more with the guac.
Tostones - Vicky and Eric ordered a side of tostones (twice fried plantains) for an appetizer. I got to sample a couple and loved them--crunchy, salty and accompanied by an aromatic garlic sauce, it was a nice way to start a meal. I'd also recommend eating them as a side dish with chicken or any kind of protein.
Seafood Paella - Judging by the way this meal was going, I was expecting excellence. However, I was sadly disappointed by the flavors in this dish. I think the main problem had to do with the quality of seafood--it just wasn't great and had a fishy smell and aftertaste. The mussels were especially unacceptable (limp and meatless), whereas the shrimp was just OK. Luckily, the rice was enjoyable but I had to pick around the seafood. Blah!
Chicken - Dan, Vicky, Eric and Peter all ordered chicken dishes. Vicky and Eric shared a whole roasted chicken on the bone and Dan got his own half portion. Both were hearty, flavorful and super juicy. You could tell that chicken is Vuelta's specialty and I'd order it next time around versus any type of seafood. Peter's grilled seasoned chicken was also tasty, although slightly on the dry side (probably because it was boneless).
Service and Cost:
Our waitress was friendly but a touch absent-minded. She messed up our drink order, although to our advantage (she gave us extra beer by accident) and was a little quirky. No harm though, as our dishes arrived in good time and we didn't feel neglected sitting in the outdoor garden.
You won't be dishing out the big bucks at La Vuelta. Appetizers range between $5-$18, entrees fall in the $6-$22.50 range and sides typically cost between $2-$4.50. Sangria is a good deal at $20 for a large-ish pitcher.