For nearly three decades, Esquire Magazine’s John Mariani has published a list of the best new restaurants of the year. Each November it is highly anticipated amongst foodies and restaurateurs alike. This year, he remarks on the proliferation of new Latin American establishments and notes that “excellent, highly creative Latino restaurants…have reached a critical mass so as to push Spanish-Latin American cuisine beyond trendy and into the mainstream.”
According to Mariano and Esquire, the Latino rookies of the restaurant year include:
222 Berkeley Street, 617-351-0400
Tico embraces the Latin notion that a good meal is meant to be shared, unstuffy, and accompanied with a great tequila. The menu features a large selection of tacos and tapas. Dishes range from the standard beef taco and ceviche of the day to the more inventive bacon, cabbage, green tomato tacos and mac ‘n cheese with serrano ham and bread crumbs. Oh, and a mere 124 tequilas. Salud!
Salinas, New York
136 Ninth Avenue, 212-776-1990
Located in the heart of Chelsea, Salinas (pictured) is a sexy, stylish haunt that offers up “Spanish cuisine with a focus on the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic islands.” Diners all rave about the Rosejat Rapido (a Catalan version of paella, made with short noodles instead of rice) cooked with chorizo, cockles, saffron aioli, and chicken. Time Out New York voted it one of the city’s top ten dishes and loyalists proclaim that it will not disappoint. You be the judge.
Tertulia, New York
359 6th Avenue, (646) 559-9909
The word tertulia loosely translates to “an informal social gathering” and this restaurant has certainly achieved a cool, casual atmosphere perfect for any spirited gathering. It serves up informal, non-fussy food (from smoked pork cheek to paella); it also attracts a loyal crowd of locals and A-list celebs (from Jay Z to Gwyneth Paltrow). The pork cheek is a must; rubbing elbows with a star is secondary.
4152 Cole Avenue Suite 106, (214) 252-0200
Komali offers a fresh take on Mexican cuisine. Chef Abrahum Salum, a native of Mexico, aims to “distinguish authentic Mexican flavors and preparations from popular Tex-Mex cuisine, and to expand appreciation for the gastronomical culture.” Translation? This ain’t all enchiladas, rice and beans. You will not find dishes smothered in chili, yellow cheese, and sour cream. But you will meet a divine chicken enchilada delicately dressed with tomatillo salsa, avocado, and Mexican crema. And you will fall in love.
Playa, Los Angeles
7360 Beverly Boulevard, (323) 933-5300
Esquire named Playa’s John Sedlar Chef of the Year. And with good reason. Sedlar never stops playing with his food. With the opening of Playa, he introduced the world to his newest culinary invention: “the maize cake.” It is a slightly thick, small tortilla patted out and placed on a griddle just long enough to crisp the outside and leave the inside perfectly soft. The cakes are topped with creative combinations that demand to be tasted…and tasted…and tasted again. Sedlar explains that the key to the success of the maize cakes is the team of “very knowledgable senoras” who all have a “visceral” sense for when the cakes are ready. The “secret process” is done entirely by hand. The finished product will melt your heart.
Mariano predicts that Tavernita, a Spanish/South-American restaurant which will open its doors in early 2012, will be the culinary spot to watch in the new year. With acclaimed chef Ryan Poli at the helm and a Uruguayan wood-burning grill at the heart, how could it not be? Our forks are primed.
For the full list and to read more on the noted Latino restaurants, click here: Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America 2011.