Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me! - Dinner at Nuela (Part 1)

How many meals can you eat for your birthday? I had three. Yeah, I know, but I couldn't help myself :( One meal was on my birthday (just me), another meal with Husband J, and finally a lovely lunch with Roo Mi (she's the bomb!). I'll focus on two of these meals because they were both at restaurants serving Latin American cuisine, something that I have not really focused on the blog so far.

For my actual birthday, I decided to go to a pretty new pan-Latin restaurant called Nuela. When I first entered Nuela, I was wondering why it seemed so familiar. Well, I'd actually been there before when it was another restaurant called Sapa. Talk about a total transformation! Where Sapa was about muted colors (green, blues, and white), Nuela is all things hot, hot hot! Red paint and furniture everywhere with sleek, modern colorful decor all over.

I sat at the ceviche bar in the center of the restaurant. Look to the left in the picture below.

I love ceviches, and I ordered that first.

Hamachi Ceviche with aji amarillo, sour orange and black garlic
All those ingredients sound pretty interesting, huh? I'm used to traditional ceviches where the fish or seafood is marinated in fresh citrus juices (and usually served in the juices as well). This was altogether different and tasted very similar to a spicy sushi roll (except not rolled and no rice. Ha! Probably not the greatest analogy, but you get the idea.). I was quite surprised by the ceviche, but I realized at that moment that the dishes I'd be eating at Nuela were going to be very different from Latin food that I'd had before.

My main dish, which I think was a special for that day (and if I remember correctly), was monkish, absolutely exceptional mushrooms and corn.
I loved this dish especially the mix of mushrooms which had a smoky richness to them. This was a complete contrast to the super sweet and not overly creamy corn. Any kind of crispy fish skin is heavenly for me, so I loved the crunchiness of this fish. Again, Nuela was bringing Latin cuisine in a manner that I didn't expect.

For dessert, I had

Cafe con Leche- an Aguani chocolate bar, Peruvian ice cream, and milk espuma (a milk foam)

At this point, I had gotten use to being surprised at Nuela. The cake was not at all what I imagined. It was a cold, solid bar, and I was expecting a much more traditional piece of cake. It could have been the way the waiter described the dish. The service was extremely attentive and friendly, so I won't fault them one bit. That being said, it was my birthday, and I was definitely looking for a more traditional cake option. Oh well! No worries though, I got some red velvet cake the next day to make up for it. ;) The ice cream was an airy light chocolate flavor, and I think I spent most of time eating this part of the dessert, which is a huge deal since I am not a big chocolate ice cream fan (Yes. I know...blasphemous!). I still think I'm trying to figure out if I even like foams. I mean, are they always needed? I'm not sure if this one was.

Overall, I would say that I thought my experience at Nuela was nice. Just nice. Not amazing but far from horrible. I would actually welcome the opportunity to get back there. I do like when my food makes me think a bit and throws me for a loop. The food at Nuela made me rethink my ideas about high end Latin food. It can be more than suped up arroz con pollo (Chicken and rice) or platanos. If I do go back, I will definitely try some of the more traditional offerings like the Peruvian chicken for two.

43 West 24th Street

Have you been to any restaurants lately that have changed they way you think about a particular type if cuisine?


Ghenet said...

Happy Birthday!

melinda said...

I love ceviche too, but my favorite part is eating it more like soup with the juices . . . Anyceviche, Happy, Happy Birthday my dear! Can't wait to hear about how else you celebrated!

Katie said...

Mmmm I want something sweet after seeing the ice cream portion of the dessert!

Kate said...

Yummy, even if it wasn't what you expected! I love ceviches and discovered it in Costa Rica on our honeymoon! Agree that your dish was not the traditional variety, which is interesting!

lavenderpug said...

looks very yummy, and what a sleek restaurant! can't wait to hear about the other birthday meals!


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