By Suzanne Parker
Chilean is one of the less well represented South American cuisines of Queens. But if you’re a Chilean food lover, or just enjoy trying something different, we have a place for you. Horcon Bistro on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park is serving up some authentic tastes of Chile “with a New York twist.” It is named for a tiny fishing village in central Chile, according to the blurb on the menu, “made famous by its fresh seafood, fresh fishermen, beautiful beaches and relaxed attitude.” Fresh fishermen? Hmmmâˆ’âˆ’I guess you have to go there.
Horcon’s unassuming style of interior decoration is Chileanâˆ’themed repurposed pizzeria. The Chilean overlay is achieved by Chilean flags (they also sell them) hung every three or four feet, and some framed Chilean soccer apparel. Apropos of the surroundings, they also serve Chileanâˆ’style pizza at lunchtime, characterized not so much by the crust but by the Chileanâˆ’inspired toppings like seafood.
At dinnertime, a nice zippy salsa is placed on the table along with a warm, dense, chewy dinner roll. Empanadas, that ubiquitous Latino answer to the calzone, is a category by itself on Horcon’s menu, which offers Chileanâˆ’style beef, cheese and various types of seafood with and without cheese. We settled on the Jaiva, which is made with cheese and crab, with the emphasis on cheese. It was bland, and the pastry could have been crisper.
Calugas de Pescado con Salsa Horcon, or fish croquettes, aren’t the fried patties of fish and filler you associate with croquettes. They are instead individually breaded fried nuggets of whiting served with a mild creamy green salsa. Pastel de Alcachofa con Queso Parmesano makes a tasty appetizer to share with your table. It’s a platter of baked artichokes and cheeses that gets more than a little cloying when eaten in the quantity in which it’s served, but hits the spot in small portions.
It seemed like a no brainer to order Chilean sea bass in a Chilean eatery. Yes, Seafood Watch considers it a noâˆ’no, but once in a while we give in to our love of that rich buttery fleshed fish. Merluza Negra con Puree, as it is called here, is served topped with shrimps, scallops and squid in a very light sauce. It is accompanied by an equal sized plate holding a copious mound of pureed potatoes, similarly topped with seafood and sauce. The quality and preparation of the fish and seafood is very good, achieving the ideal textures, but the sauce was barely seasoned, and the potatoes were a ringer for instant.
Asado de Vacuno con Pure, or barbecued steak with mashed potatoes, was disconcertingly tough. Too bad, because the flavor was great. Perhaps the better meat choice would have been Pastel de Choclo, the Chilean answer to shepherd’s pie, made with ground corned beef with a corn topping.
Dessert was a delight. Papayas al Jugo con Crema Chantilly was a fan of papaya slices supported by a luscious tanâˆ’colored whipped cream. The cream derives its color from brown sugar.
The Bottom Line
Chile has a unique and interesting cuisine, and Horcon Bistro is an opportunity to experience it. They also have some excellent house Chilean wines by the glass to wash it all down. The atmosphere is friendly, and the chef will often come out of the kitchen to chat with the patrons. And for the budgetâˆ’minded, they offer a recession special, and steak and fries for two for $20.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
62âˆ’16 Woodhaven Blvd.
Rego Park, NY 11374
Price Range: Appetizers: $6âˆ’âˆ’$10; Entrees: $12âˆ’âˆ’22
Cuisine: Chilean with a New York twist
Setting: Converted pizzeria
Hours: Lunch and Dinner Daily
Alcohol: Wine & beer
Credit Cards: yes
Noise Level: Acceptable