We went to Zafra few years ago for lunch and then dinner and decided to go back after we saw an article about the 15 best hot chocolate in the US where Zafra was nominated #15. So, we decided to complete out experience with brunch!
Zafra is the creation of Cuban-born business partners and friends Maricel E. Presilla and Clara Chaumont and has been opened more than a decade ago in Hoboken. The place is small, with only 22 seats. We decided to go early so we would not have to wait as, previously, we saw people waiting outside. The place was still empty, but started to get packed at about 12:30pm.
We, of course, ordered the hot chocolate and picked some dishes. Unfortunately, when ordering, they told us that their fryer died and they could not serve anything that was cooked in it! In fact, half of the menu was unavailable. I prefer when they tell us in advance, so I am not disappointed because I pick dishes that are not available. What was surprising though is that they did not even serve plantains because of the fryer! Don't they know that you can fry food in a regular pan??? After few minutes, we finally found some dishes they were able to make...
First came the hot chocolate.
It looked like a regular hot chocolate, but with a nice cream on top. Based on the consistency and taste, it was probably made with milk and not water. The hot chocolate (from Venezuela) is in fact thickened with machica, a blend made of toasted barley, brown sugar and cinnamon. This was delicious! The hot chocolate was not really thick, surprisingly not sweet and you could definitely taste the cinnamon. I think that without the machica, it would have been an average drink, but thankfully, this blend of grains enhances the flavors and it makes it a wonderful drink. In fact, making machica is not difficult:
- 1/2 cup of ground toasted whole barley
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
- Mix all the three ingredients in a bowl.
- It can then be added to a hot cocoa!
Then came our appetizer. We chose Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Frijol Refrito y Tres Quesos
(Piquillo Peppers from Navarre Filled with Refried Beans and Three Spanish Cheeses, Savory Sauce)
It was delicious! I loved the fact that part of the cheese was slightly burnt, giving a bit of texture and adding the great taste of burnt cheese to the dish. The peppers had a very little kick, and I wish that there was a bit more refried beans. But overall, a nice and light appetizer.
Then, Jodi picked the Cuban version of French toast, made with pressed bread.
It was served with almonds, walnuts, raisins, banana and mango. It was a disappointing dish! First of all, the mango was not ripe and I am surprised that they put it on the plate as, when cutting it, they must have seen it was no good. Then, the taste of the bread gave the impression is was dipped in water rather than in a batter; fortunately, there was the maple syrup to give a bit of taste.
On my side, I got Dos Huevos a su Gusto con Chorizo o Jamón, Llapingachos de Papa y Queso y Tostadas
Two Eggs any Style (I chose over easy) with Chorizo or Ham (I picked chorizo), Pan-Fried Ecuadorian Potato and Cheese Patties (it says patties on the menu, but there was only one!), Pressed Cuban Toast.
The dish was good, although I would not go back there just for it. The chorizo was fried, enhancing the saltiness of it; the eggs were perfect, and I dipped the very good pressed bread in the runny yolk. The potato and cheese patty was good but nothing extraordinary, lacking a bit of cheese.
For dessert, we wanted to have the Tres Leches cake but they told us that they did not have it. Do they make it in the fryer too??? So we ended up with the Venezuelan crepes filled with dulce de leche.
The crepes came cold and I truly think that this is because they sat there before being brought to our table. The crepe itself was thick, but good. However, there was too much dulce de leche.
So this brunch was not memorable. The kitchen and the service seemed overwhelmed and the fryer situation did not help. I would not have gone to this restaurant before, I would have thought that it was overrated. I will probably have to go back at some point to try the dishes I really wanted; Hopefully the fryer will work!!!
Enjoy (I barely did)!
And remember: I Just Want To Eat!