An “Ofrenda” You Can’t Refuse

January 15, 2011

in National,home


An Ofrenda You Can’t Refuse

113 7th Ave S.
New York NY 10014
Phone: (212) 924-2305

Reviewed by: Rada Steinberg

Food: Service If you’re looking for a greasy, cheese smothered taco, do not go to the cozy confines of Ofrenda Restaurant. In the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof …if you are looking for “Tradition, tradition, tradition!” then most definitely pay a visit to this unique eatery. This upscale, “hole-in-the wall” of a restaurant opened a year ago, and is co-owned by Executive Chef Luis A. Arce Mota and Jorge Guzman.

Executive Chef Luis A. Arce Mota preparing cactus

Don’t be scared off or “offrended” by the skeleton mural which greets you at the entrance. That top hat sporting skeleton feeds into the restaurant’s theme of  “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead). The term is itself depressing, but it is actually a Mexican holiday, celebrated by making an ofrenda to the deceased loved ones in the form of their favorite food and drink. Luis and Jorge use this theme in its more light hearted, spiritual way, by making an ofrenda to their customers of their favorite foods and refreshing drinks.

The warmly lit dining room holds no more than 20 tables giving the impression you’ve been invited to an exclusive, private house somewhere in Mazatlan, Sinaloa Mexico (the chef’s home city) for a home cooked meal. The staff at Ofrenda is always happy to assist and give advice regarding the many different dishes offered on the menu. Every plate of food brought from the kitchen by these caring servers is garnished with a smile. Chef Luis sat down to give me the inside story on his restaurant, his French technique and Mexican ingredients.

Luscious Ofrenda-Style Pork Chop

With hands waving enthusiastically, and serious expression behind his pinched index and thumb fingers, I knew a passionate food statement was coming from Chef Luis. “We are traditional… not just about the food, but we have a tradition we keep alive. Fiesta, Christmas, 3 kings and Cinco de Mayo… holidays aren’t just an excuse for drinking. It has to do with flavors of food!” Chef Luis declared with finality “You won’t find just combinations of beans, rice and enchiladas here!”

As the food started to arrive, my eyes didn’t know where to focus first! I was the proverbial kid in a candy shop. Red sangria, with all the flavors of ripe fruit bursting out, went well with a bubbling hot corn truffled goat cheese queso. The moment it arrived at our table, we dug into the melted delicacy with crispy tortilla chips that accompanied this scrumptious plate. The quesadilla we ordered wasn’t your typical Monterey Jack cheese dipped in salsa and sour cream. This fantastic quesadilla was oozing with Oaxaca cheese, Pepper Jack, Cheddar, and in case that wasn’t enough creamy goodness, the chef adds Mexican cream.  According to Chef Luis, the two most popular dishes on the menu are the Pan Roasted Salmon and the Grilled Pork Chop with chorizo salsa. Both dishes sounded delightful, but I decided to go with the Pumpkin Seed Crusted Sole, atop yucca fondue and sautéed Brussels sprouts with guajillo sauce.

A Variety of Authentic Mexican Dishes Await You at Ofrenda

In between bites, I got a lesson on the guajillo sauce’s key ingredient; a dried up pepper which smells like a prune. But smells can be deceiving, because this was quite hot! I loved every fiery bite. The yucca was smooth and silky in contrast to the crispy yet tender sole fish. The Brussels sprouts with the guajillo sauce gave the dish an extra edge; that tingle on your tongue after you swallow the perfect forkful.  The secret ingredient in the guajillo sauce? You’ll never guess! Shrimp shells cooked into the stock give this spicy sauce its flavor.

To feel satiated is to finish a meal with a sweet treat, and that we did! What greeted us was a dream come true to those with a sweet tooth.  We gasped as a Three-cake Donut, with ice cream and vanilla sauce thoroughly cascading over the top, arrived before us. This gooey delight was dense and moist, everything a cake-donut should be. It was so good we ordered a second for the table. I was itching to order a third but instead kept repeating the following sentence to myself, “You want to fit through a door, don’t you?”

This very affordable, authentic, rookie of a NYC restaurant is sure to make its way to the big league! Visit Ofrenda soon, and make sure you tell them that Rada Steinberg and© sent you!

Food Critic Rada Steinberg

Introducing: Rada Steinberg is a foodie and wordsmith from birth. Rada grew up inManhattan, NY but was born in St. Petersburg Russia. Growing up in NYC, she was lucky enough to be exposed to some of the most unusual and tasty foods around. Having traveled to numerous countries throughout Europe, including Portugal, Poland, Spain, andothers, Rada believes her taste buds have been trained and are now prepared for the experience necessary to be a food critic. Rada studied in Rome, Italy for a year as well. Cooking has always been a huge love of Rada’s, and she’s interned for a restaurant PR company, and even worked for a Restaurant Reservations company. Her experience and appreciation for well-prepared food and seamless service is the perfect fit for©.

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