Friday, July 10, 2009
Macondo - Funky, Inventive Tapas
Macondo - 157 East Houston Street, New York NY 10002
V/F Train to 2nd Avenue
After reading a compelling review about Macondo, Lisa and I decided to check it out. We both love tapas so it was an easy sell, and when Lisa spotted their enticing Happy Hour offering, we were that much more excited about it.
I'd describe Macondo as cheery and festive. The interior color scheme is bright with greens and earthy browns. Interesting touches such as nets that hold little trinkets and a "green room" with wild ivy are found here, giving the space an element of surprise.
The front of the house is a lot more casual than the back--people sit on long stools and high tables inside and there's a small outdoor seating area that faces the bar. The music is a tad loud but you get used to it fast. Overall, the vibe is fun and celebratory--I'd suggest it for a casual birthday dinner or an impromptu get-together. I would not however come here if you're looking for a romantic meal.
Consisting of small plates (or tapas), the menu offered many options that piqued our interest. We were first drawn to the less expensive Happy Hour food menu but in the end, mostly ordered from the regular menu due to better choices and bigger portions.
Calamares Crujientes (Crispy Calamari) - These weren't your ordinary fried calamari and both Lisa and I agreed that they were exceptional. Dressed with rocotto honey aioli, they had a sweet/tangy essence. Slightly crispy on the outside but nice and chewy on the inside, the squid tasted deliciously fresh.
Mofongo with Shrimp - Part of the Happy Hour menu, this dish included a small mound of mashed green plantains with spicy shrimp on the side. Both Lisa and I loved the kick from the salsa that dressed the shrimp. Once again, the seafood was fresh and very tasty, the only regret being that the portion was small. We would've preferred more of the mashed plantains--they were slightly smoky and had nice texture.
Pork Tacos - Although it was our least favorite dish of the night, it was still pretty good. The pork had a mild flavor and wasn't too fatty. We both thought that the tacos needed some creaminess or a sauce to bind it together. Unfortunately, it was hard to eat and it could've used a heavier hand with seasoning.
Bacalao Arepa - The stand-out dish of the night, it was both innovative and magnificent to look at. The egg that rested on top of the arepa with cod, tomatoes and peppers was a gorgeous sight, not unlike a bright, happy sunflower. Once we broke the yolk and let it marry with the rest of the ingredients, it brought our senses to attention. The salty cod had a pickled taste and the earthy arepa provided a wonderful base, soaking up the spicy salsa and the creamy yolk.
Churros - The mini churros and dipping chocolate were a great way to end our meal. Boasting great consistency, the churros were crunchy on the outside but soft and doughnut-like on the inside. Dipping them into the chocolate was fun but I wished that it was a bit thicker so it'd adhere to the churro better. But all in all, a yummy treat.
Drinks - In addition to the sangria (which was delicious), we were served a small pitcher of an inventive concoction called Porron--a mix of beer and Fresca. It was complimentary with our tapas and the way it was encouraged to be drunk was through the small spout of the hand-sized pitcher. Our waitress demonstrated how this was done (without getting our clothes dirty). We both tried it with mild success and in the end, resorted to pouring it into our glasses--cowardly, I know. The taste was sweet and citrusy and overall very pleasant.
Service and Cost:
Our waitress was a slightly off-beat yet nothing to complain about. All dishes came out quickly and service went off without a hitch. The only weirdness was when I gave the waitress my cash, asked for change and she didn't provide it until I reminded her. A bit shady but maybe she forgot in the midst of busy Happy Hour--I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.
Costs are moderate with most tapas in the $8-$10 range. Happy Hour tapas are in the $4-$6 neighborhood but portions are significantly smaller. All in all, four tapas, one dessert and two drinks set us back about $35 per person, including tax and tip.