I’ve been meaning to get here for some time. One can never be sure if a recommendation is just trendy, self-serving or helping to serve a friend. This one however, was a great find. Not cheap, but still a great find. I don’t always spend $200 on lunch for two, but if I have to, this is the spot, and I definitely hope to return. Keep in mind we did have 4 cocktails, and they are $16 each, that was almost half the bill right there. The 2-course lunch is $29 and includes an appetizer and a main dish.
The main attraction here for me was the cocktails, and rule number one of nearly everything is never do anything on an empty stomach, especially drink. So here I lucked out. Incredible food and fantastic cocktails. Joining me for lunch is my newly wed wife, all of nearly 48 hours. She really does not drink. She is a very picky eater, and if she drinks, you can trust there is no mistaking from her facial expressions if the cocktail is passable or not.
So as you can see from the photo, the Corazon Salvaje would easily entice anyone. The name of the cocktail which translates to “Wild Heart” in Spanish is a combination of pisco quebranta, salers, Maraschino, passionfruit, pineapple, lime and absinthe. I know the red liquor they floated on top had to be some bitter like Aperol or Campari because I am almost certain it was not any of the above listed ingredients. The rim is frosted with sugar and garnished with lime. The first sip you taste the bitters followed by a sweet, intoxicating cocktail. Wow. This should actually be a Polynesian Tiki drink if any one can replicate it.
So now we move on to Satan’s Circus. Sounds devilishly good, and as the name implies, its 3 rings of flavor all center stage. Rye, Aperol and Cherry Herring are the spirits, fresh lemon juice and a chili infusion of the Aperol complete this classic cocktail. With its deep vibrant red color it looks fiery indeed, however, its just the right amount of subtle heat to make this a tame but tempting cocktail. I admit, as much as I pride myself as a mixologist, it would be hard to recreate this cocktail at home.
The cocktails are pretty generous in size considering, and while its rule number one to never drink on an empty stomach, now its imperative to eat something. So out comes a warm onion chestnut loaf. This is really delicious and whole chestnuts inside are incredible.
While the food is on the way out, its time for another cocktail. It was interesting to note that many of their cocktails noted Venezuelan rum as the main ingredient. I’ve been a long time fan of Venezuelan rum, even more so than Cuban rum. If anyone has had the pleasure of tasting Cuban rum, its worlds apart from most you will find, but Venezuelan rum is so sweet, so smooth, you wonder if it has any alcohol and/or if it was artificially sweetened. I don’t know what brand they used but I would guess it was St. Theresa or Diplomatico. No matter what they used, the Hotel Nacional Special listed under the “Classics” is now a new favorite of mine. Apricot Liqueur, pineapple, lime, absinthe, Angostura and demerara.
While the cocktails are delicious, the food here cannot be upstaged. The appetizers were part of the pre-fixe of $29 and came with one appetizer and one main. The main I got was Bregole with wild boar ragu. I love wild boar, especially in a ragu. It is not always easy to find and the last time I had it, my friend had to actually hunt it down in the Southern US and I was lucky to get enough to make a winter’s supply of pasta sauce with. If I had gotten a full dish of this, we could have skipped the next dish, and quite frankly, the lobster should have been the appetizer, not this. While the lobster was very tender, perhaps a bit too tender, I had to wonder for a minute if it was thoroughly cooked because it was so soft, even looked a little undercooked on the bottom, but it was still good. The whole foam thing I get but was never a big fan of. And I am not sure what white truffles were doing in this dish, but sure, I will take fresh shaved truffles wherever I can get them.
My girlfriend, the salad lover, always conscious of her diet and figure, decided on the salad. The fresh mozzarella was even better than some burrata I’ve had that was flown in the night before from Italy. It was so soft, creamy, delicious, it was incredible. For her main she chose the chicken burger. Who the hell would make a chicken burger, much less put it on a menu? This was my first thought. And certainly, good old beef is probably cheaper even at the best quality. But here I was completely wrong. This was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had if you consider anything outside of a burger made without beef. If I had to give up red meat and needed a burger fix, I would have to get this recipe for sure. It was moist, flavorful, delicious. It tasted nothing like chicken outside of the texture and this was a real winner.
One last cocktail before lunch is over, and it’s called Up To Date. Rye, cream sherry, orange curaçao, amontillado sherry, Angostura and orange bitters. Not a favorite, the sherry is too pronounced and sherry is not my favorite. It was my girlfriend’s choice, she did not like it, so I had to finish it. No harm done, you either like sherry or you don’t.
This is by no means a cheap lunch, it came to nearly $200 with tip and included 2 appetizers, 2 main dishes, and 4 cocktails, only one espresso and a candy bar for dessert (my girlfriend was full and I figure we can take the candy bar on the road for when she needs a snack later, while I enjoy a pick-me-up now). This was a great experience, not one most can afford every week or every month, but for every special occasion like a birthday or anniversary for sure.