READ AND EDITED
DINING REVIEW 10-01
COCINA LATINA 10-01
Feel at home in the world of Cocina Latina
BY CLAUDIA CRUZ
Shhh! The word that Queens is a great place to dine is getting out. And we’ve got Cocina Latina in Kew Gardens to thank for that.
Prior to its opening in 2008, famed restaurateur and culinary expert David Adjey followed Cocina Latina’s owner, Chris Dreams, with a camera crew through the early planning and construction stages to the restaurant’s grand opening. The result will be a one-hour television episode on Food Network Canada in Adjey’s new program called “Restaurant 101.”
Since two out of 10 new restaurant’s fail, Adjey’s role “was to help Chris in a short period to get good quality food, a good concept, help [him] open and to lay down a foundation for a solid future,” said Barri Cohen, co-producer for “Restaurant 101.” “There was a lot of work and the odds were stacked against him.”
However, the hard work and Dreams’ vision to put a restaurant across the street from the Queens Supreme Court seemed have paid off. Cocina Latina, which opened in May 2008, was packed at lunchtime with the crowd Dreams’ dreamed of: lawyers, police and court officers, reporters, and courthouse staff.
“I envisioned a place where the cool kids could hangout for lunch,” he said about the Mediterranean styled space with a city ambiance that serves the pan-American and Iberian cuisine.
And with a lunch menu, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., where the most expensive plate – the grilled skirt steak with three chimichurri sauces and yucca cheese fries – costs $14, Cocina Latina might feel like a bargain for big-time defense attorneys used to shelling out more in Manhattan eateries.
The Bistec Panini, grill skirt steak sandwich marinated in garlic and herbs topped with sautéed red onions, lettuce and tomatoes, was a nice light and delicious lunchtime option. The tender steak was indeed very well-marinated and left a tasteful and juicy balsamic vinaigrette flavor on my palate. To accompany the panini, Dreams – who created the menu from his favorite dishes, he said – added slices of watermelon, a healthy and elegant choice.
As a side, the yucca cheese fries are also surprisingly light and not too greasy. Dreams said he is the only one in New York, if not the world, with these fries “because I invented it.”
Although the culinary fare does reflect a little bit of Colombia, Argentina, Spain, and the Dominican Republic, Dreams’ Mamá’s Flan will truly remind you of the warmth of home. The recipe for this traditional Latino custard is from Dreams’ mother. And though Dreams wouldn’t reveal the ingredients and unlike some other flans, this one does not wobble – an indication the recipe has more eggs than most – and since it cuts and tastes more like a cream cheese, this might be an ingredient too. The result is a flan that is not too sweet despite the accompanying raspberry and butterscotch sauce. This flan was definitely comfort food.
In the evenings, Cocina Latina offers clients the opportunity to view Monday night football matches and, on the web site www.cocinalatinany.com, Dreams posts other events like karaoke nights and Arabian nights, when he brings a belly dancers and has a hookah.
Cocina Latina will participant in Restaurant Week 2009, which is taking place between October 5 and 8, and October 12 and 15, with pre-fixed dinner prices set at $25.
Discover the Latino and Iberian cuisine of Cocina Latina before the rest of the world does!
THE QUEENS COURIER/Photos by Claudia Cruz
125-22 Queens Boulevard
Kew Garden, NY 11415
Breakfast: Monday-Friday, 9 to 11 a.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Happy Hour: Monday-Friday: 4 to 7 p.m.
Dinner: Everyday until 11 p.m.
Web site: www.cocinalatinany.com
Accepts all major credit cards