Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Esperanto - Do the Food Samba!

Esperanto - 145 Avenue C, New York NY 10009
L Train to 1st Avenue or 6 Train to Astor Place

I was invited to a dinner tasting at Esperanto - a fun Brazilian bistro in one of my favorite Manhattan neighborhoods, the East Village.  A friend of mine, Michelle had been to Esperanto before and praised it to the heavens.  "Interesting," I thought and couldn't wait to experience it for myself.  Lisa came with me too and together we confirmed Michelle's claim - it really was a fabulous place for a good meal and a great drink.

Happy, colorful and warm is how I'd describe the setting at Esperanto. I love the vibrant colors in the dining room that give the space a tropical and cheery vibe.  There's a nice bar in the front and an elevated dining space, extending to the back of the squarish room.  And because the setting is so boisterous, especially on Monday nights when they feature live music, I wouldn't recommend Esperanto for a date.  Rather, I'd go with a friend or two or even a modest sized group.  It's definitely a great place to let your hair down and maybe even break into dance if you're so inclined.


We heard good things about the food and were excited to try some of their signature dishes.  We shared everything and went with a couple of starters and two entrees, both of which were seafood focused.  YUM! I highly recommend taking the sharing route.

Appetizers -We ordered two tapas-style dishes and one salad.  The empanadas were my favorite--their crispy pastry shell was a delight to bite into and I loved dipping them into the spicy dip.  One was filled with beef and the other with veggies. I'm a total carnivore and preferred the beef because it had a lot more flavor.

The other two dishes we started with were the crab in banana leaf, which came highly recommended and the chayotte salad.  While I didn't care for the crab (it was too fishy tasting), I loved the salad.   Consisting of oranges, hearts of palm, red onion, mint and avocado, it was incredibly fresh, and a perfect palate cleanser before the main course arrived.

Entrees - This was by far the highlight of the meal, as we ordered two excellent options, the crispy marinated snapper and the Moqueca Bahiana.  The fish was awesome, tasting wonderfully light and slightly charred, paired with a zesty tamarindo sauce and rice.  While it was served on the bone, that wasn't a problem because the meat separated very easily, so it really was a non-issue.

And the moqueca...well that was something special.  It reminded me of curry, as it was cooked in a pot of coconut milk with various veggies such peppers, tomatoes and onions.  But this wasn't a purely vegetable dish, as it mostly consisted of deeply flavored shrimp.  Served with a side of rice and farofa (toasted cassava flour), which thickened the stew, it made for a hearty and filling meal.

Dessert - We were talked into getting dessert, specifically the chocolate volcano (aka flourless chocolate cake).  Although I absolutely love this treat, it isn't terribly creative.  But...we succumbed and ordered it after all.  As soon as it came out, we swooned. It really was oozing like a volcano with thick chocolate lava, paired with the most delectable vanilla bean ice cream.

Drinks - The cocktails at Esperanto were fun and creative.  While they had your standbys such as the margarita and the caipirinha, there were also inventive options such as the Coco Punch, El Diablo de Verde, a Kiwirinha and so forth.  Despite the funky offering, I went with the traditional caipirinha, which was nice and strong and quite tangy.  Lisa was more experimental with the Coco Punch, which was awesome!  It was packed with tons of bold flavors from the coconut milk, rum, fresh lime juice and ginger.  It reminded me of being on a great vacation.

Service and Cost:
The service was really good.  Our waitress was sweet and so helpful - giving us a full run down of the menu and making recommendations left and right.  While we were a little difficult, changing our order after our initial request, she was accommodating and seemed unfazed. 

Upon departure, we were sent off with a kiss on both cheeks, a bottle of Esperanto oil and a rose in honor of International Women's Day.  So what I'm trying to say is that they treat their patrons right - and they really do care.

Costs are very, very affordable, as is customary in the East Village.  Lunch and dinner prix-fixes are available at modest prices too!

Appetizers: $6-$22
Entrees: $13.50-$17.50
Dessert: $4-$7

Cocktails: $6-$10

Lunch Prix-Fixe: 2-courses $10.99
Dinner Prix-Fixe: 3-courses $19.99

3 Mmmms


  1. You didn't even mention the complimentary bread and olive oil that is to die for and totally my favorite part about dining here.

    Also, try the sangria next time - delicious!

  2. you said the service was good? I don't think you really went there. You must have gone to some other Esperanto I've never heard of.

  3. Sorry mushr00m, I don't agree. The service was excellent - I stand behind that.

  4. Something has changed then. That place was legendary!

  5. I had a great time accompanying Foodista at this tasting! I really enjoyed the different flavors of all the food and by the time we left i was completely stuffed! The rose at the end of dinner & the olive oil was a nice way to end the night!

  6. I looove the olive oil Lisa - I use it in cooking all the time. Or to put on paninis. It's really good.



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