Puerto Viejo: eating in #NYC

23 Aug
I recently went on a weekend trip to New York that became, for all intents and purposes, one giant meal. I thought one particular restaurant stood out enough to deserve its own review.
Puerto Viejo is a Dominican restaurant located in a part of Brooklyn that is just now “welcoming” its first wave of hipsters. Surrounded by auto repair shops and, alarmingly, a live chicken vendor, Puerto Viejo stands out for its abundance of exposed wood trimming and “hipster light bulbs” (ie. clear filaments a la Thomas Edison).
Normally a review happens after a dinner and, occasionally, a lunch. I ate at Puerto Viejo shortly after 9am. Surprisingly, this did not affect my overall impression despite the fact that there were only a tiny handful of other dedicated diners in the room. This is true for 2 reasons : the music, decor and service provided my friends and me with ample food for though, and the food was so well executed that we emerged with the same sense of carnal satisfaction that one would experience after having a great steak or spirited sex on a hastily cleared off kitchen table.
The overall ambience was surprisingly conducive to having fun, even at the ungodly hour of 9am on a Saturday morning. The Dominican music was lively but not overpowering, which was a great way to start a big day of discovering one of the world’s great cities. The decor also gave us a lot to talk about. For example, the washroom had some intriguing old pipes and gauges reclaimed from some disused industrial site. The chairs and tables were all mismatched in classic hipster tradition. In the same vein, there were vintage suitcases and dusty mirrors strewn around the dining room. It became a little game to compare all these little design elements to similar restaurants in Toronto.
Our game was delightfully interrupted by the arrival of food and drink.  The Dominican Longaniza was too tempting to forego, especially since I’d never tried it before. The style varies from the original Spanish version in that it uses more locally-sourced ingredients, such as lime or bitter orange juice.  Puerto Viejo’s Longaniza was beautifully executed. The sausages were traditionally cooked, that is, in a way that allows them to burst out of their casings slightly in order to develop a deliciously coarse pan-fried crust. The texture inside was equally coarse and meaty, and you could tell that some care had gone into making the filling. The flavour was such that each bite burst with freshness. I suspect that the use of citrus in the filling helped create this flavour and cut the fattiness commonly associated with all forms of sausage. The little pan fried wonders were served with pickled onions and boiled plantain.  Perhaps the most astonishing part is that all this cost a pittance: $5.50.
Sausages, pickled onions and boiled plantain (the source of MC's "carnal satisfaction"!)

Sausages, pickled onions and boiled plantain (the source of MC’s “carnal satisfaction”!)

I don’t normally comment on drinks, and especially not fruit juices. However, I tasted something magical and likely unobtainable  in Toronto: fresh tamarind juice.  I’ve had tropical fruit juices in tropical places, and this was an excellent representation of what the juice should taste like, despite the fruit having been carted several thousand kilometers to the Eastern seabord. I highly recommend that, if you do order the tamarind juice, you add just the slightest drop of their homemade hot sauce and a squeeze of lime. The result could very well form the basis of an excellent Caesar-inspired tropical drink.
Tamarind juice: magical and likely unobtainable  in Toronto?

Tamarind juice: magical and likely unobtainable in Toronto?

Overall, Puerto Viejo deserves praise for what it is bringing to a neighborhood that is not yet considered a foodie hotspot in New York City. I’ve been told that it gets quite busy later on, and I can see why. The place succeeds in blending a great vibe with excellent food, even at 9am on a Saturday. Just think what they can do in the evening when they get busy! I’ll definitely be going back when I next head to Brooklyn.

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