My nephew culinary visit: day 6: Cuban cuisine at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

image of La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

La Isla is a great Cuban restaurant in Hoboken: cheap with great cuisine. So we were thrilled to bring Valentin to that place for what would be another discovery.
image of La Isla in Hoboken, NJ
We sat at a table, more convenient than the bar to share dishes when more than two people. The service was very quick and we got some very good comforting food.

We started off with beef empanadas, a must have.
image of beef empanada at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

The crust is flaky and a bit crispy, and the inside, made with beef and some tomatoes, moist and slightly salty.
image of beef empanada at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

We also had maduros, that are fried plantains:
image of plantains maduros at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

Tostones (smashed plantains twice fried):
image of plantains tostones at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

Black beans:
image of black beans at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

And yellow rice with pigeon peas:
image of yellow rice and pigeon peas at La Isla in Hoboken, NJ

The portions were enough for the three of us. I love to eat all the dishes together, sometimes eating some empanada with rice and beans or maduros with beans, using tostones like I would a piece of bread.

The food was, as usual, delicious! La Isla is really a great Cuban restaurant if you are in Hoboken.

Enjoy (I did)!

La Isla Restaurant on Urbanspoon
If you like this post or the photos, feel free to share it using the toolbar below or to write a comment! 

And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

image of Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

The last time I went to Zafra's was in March this year. We went there few times before, but that time, it was to drink their hot chocolate with machica that was ranked number 15 of the best hot chocolate in the US! We tried it and it was delicious, however, we were out of luck because their fryer was not working and they could not prepare some of the dishes we wanted to order. 
image of lime at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

So we decided to go back for a Sunday brunch! The place was crowded: normal, considering it is a very popular restaurant in Hoboken!
image of Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

I love this colorful tiny place, that serves some delicious Cuban and Latin food crafted by Chef Maricel Presilla!
image of Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

Of course, we started off with the hot chocolate:
image of Hot chocolate with machica at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was fantastic! Not too sweet, it had this fantastic flavor that emanated from the cinnamon.

Then, we decided to start with arepitas con queso, small arepas with cheese:

image of Arepitas con queso at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

We got three of them, served with creme fraiche and salsa. It was very good: I love the taste and texture of the corn flower. The cheese was probably queso blanco. It was a great, inexpensive appetizer, perfect for sharing.

Then, Jodi ordered the Carimañolas con Huevos or Yuca Cheese Croquettes with two fried eggs:
image of Carimañolas con Huevos or Yuca Cheese Croquettes with two fried eggs at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was served with pressed buttered Cuban bread that was delicious. It was an ok dish: the croquettes were a bit dough-y.
image of Carimañolas con Huevos or Yuca Cheese Croquettes with two fried eggs at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

On my side, I ordered the Tortilla de Huevos y Maduros  or egg and ripe plantain omelet:
image of huevos with maduros at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was served with the same Cuban bread. I liked it, but would have liked a bit of cheese or cream to jazz up the dish a bit. However, the omelet was perfectly made.
image of huevos with maduros at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

We were hesitating to get dessert, when they brought us their tres leches, complimentary, because we accepted to switch tables to accommodate a large party.
image of Tres leches cake at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It was a nice gesture that we could not refuse! And trust me: we would have been crazy to refuse! It was delicious!
image of Tres leches cake at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

It had this thick layer of meringue on top that was flambéed, and then, in the bottom, was the sponge cake that was drowned in the milk mix. This was fantastic: tasty and not sweet at all! Needless to say we finished it!
image of Tres leches cake at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

I will definitely go back there to try some other dishes. If you do go to Zafra's, I suggest the hot chocolate and the tres leches cake!

Enjoy (I did)!    

Zafra on Urbanspoon

If you like this post or the photos, feel free to share it using the toolbar below or to write a comment! 

And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Brunch at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

Image of the Entrance of Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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. 
Image of Hot chocolate with machica at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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 
  1. Mix all the three ingredients in a bowl.
  2. 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)

Image of Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de frijol refrito y tres quesos at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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. 
Image of Cuban French Toast at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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
Image of eggs and chorizo, ham at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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.
Image of Venezuelan crepes at Zafra's in Hoboken, NJ

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!

Zafra on Urbanspoon

Brunch at The Cuban in Hoboken, NJ

After this exquisite dinner we had at The Cuban in Hoboken few months ago (see review by clicking here), we decided to go back, but this time for brunch! Especially since we saw that they serve a tres leches French Toast! Yes, you read well: tres leches French Toast!

So we started with the Tortilla de papa y chorizo.

It is a fluffy omelet with potatoes, chorizo, onion, manchego cheese and tomato  escabeche (escabeche means a dish marinated in an acidic mixture such as vinegar or lemon). That was some omelet! First, the portion was of a good size. Then, it tasted great! The eggs were beautifully cooked: overcooked, eggs can be dry. These were very moist. They cut all the ingredients in it in small pieces, so you could get a bit of everything at each bite.

Then came the torrejas.
The way they make it is that they crust the bread with almonds and corn flakes. In the bottom, they put some tres leches as the photo below shows:
What was great is that the tres leches was not too sweet at all. Otherwise it would have been horrible with the maple syrup!

So, both dishes were fantastic and we ended up paying $23! I will definitely go back there and encourage you to try!

Enjoy (I sure did)!

The Cuban restaurant in Hoboken, NJ

Few weeks ago, I went to The Cuban in Hoboken, NJ. I did not know what to expect as there are already several Cuban restaurants over there. Where La Isla seems to be the authentic cheap establishment, The Cuban seems to be more upscale and offers a contemporary twist to Cuban specialties.

 We decided to go, but not on a week end as this type of restaurant, that is also a lounge, can be packed and noisy: not the best for a romantic diner. They sat us next to the bar, on a high table made of dark wook. Jodi sat on the comfortable leather banquette while I faced her on a high chair (yes guys: leave the choice of the seat to the Lady!). 

The menu provides all sorts of dishes that can satisfy any palate: salads, meat, fish...Appetizers go from $6 to $12, while entrees go from $18 to $26.

At first, they brought us some bread.

As you can see on the photo, it was in a cigar box! The bread was a cheese bread, very light and fluffy that reminded me of a French delicacy called Gougere. It was delicious and I truly appreciated the fact that they were ready to bring us more, without us asking (he he!).

We started the diner with the cheese plate.
I know: this is not very Cuban, but we love cheese! It was in fact some artisan Spanish cheeses such as manchego and blue. They served it with some meat and a delicious lavender honey (Tip: if you do not like strong cheeses, you can counteract the taste with honey, butter or jam).

At the same time, we got the Aguacate Y Tomate salad.
It was composed of avocado, tomatoes, pickled onions, drizzled with sherry oregano vinaigrette. The dressing was perfect and the salad was very fresh. I loved the acidity that the pickled onions added to the dish!

The last appetizer we tried was the empanada.
They propose three types: chicken, beef (ropa vieja) and vegetarian. We went full on vegetarian. It was made of fire roasted vegetables, goat cheese, tomato escabeche. I loved it! the shell was slightly greasy, but the ingredients worked perfectly together, especially the goat cheese and the tomato escabeche.

Then came the entree: it was the Arroz Imperial.
It is a boneless chicken, served with tomato manchego rice, peas, olives, drizzled with aioli (garlic mayonnaise). The chicken was excellent: perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The rice was good too but a bit dry. There was some chicken in it! Eaten with the aioli and the grilled cheese on top, it was succulent.

The last and best part of the meal was dessert...We ordered the traditional Tres Leches.
It was perfect and gooey!

I guess after reading this, you understand that we had a fantastic dinner! It is a great place and there are plenty of dishes on the menu that I would like to try. So I guess I have no other choice than go back...What a sacrifice!  This is a great addition to the Hoboken restaurant scene.

Enjoy (I did)!

 The Cuban on Urbanspoon

Sol Caribe in Hoboken - My advice: improve your cooking!

Sol Caribe in Hoboken is a latin fusion restaurant that opened recently, replacing Harvest Cuisine. It is located Midtown Hoboken, so it is not a bad location to attract dinners. The restaurant has been fully renovated with bamboo everywhere and a Caribbean feel. Each time we passed in front of it, we did not see that many people though. So I got curious. I can tell you that when we entered, they jumped on us! They are probably dying to have customers, but I suggest they make some changes, otherwise it is not going to happen. Yes, the food was not that great. The way they set it up is the following: you can order a la carte or have the all day special for $7.99. It is comprised of: rice (Morro or yellow), meat (chicken, pork or beef) or fish, plantains or yuca, soup or salad. All of this is prepared buffet style.

We first started with a cheese empanada. I really liked it: there was enough cheese and it was not too greasy.

Then, we went for the $7.99 menu: we chose the morro rice (made with rice and black beans), chicken and skirt steak with fried vegetables, maduros (plantains) and Caribbean salad.

I did not care about the salad: it was made with potatoes, beans and corn with a pink dressing that I guess was made of yoghurt. It was bland!
The rice was dry: they should have prepared the rice with some black bean sauce so it does not dry out as fast.

The skirt steak was like eating my shoe! I did not even finish it! This is very rare as would people who know me say.

The only things I liked were the chicken (just a drumstick) and the maduros. I also had a batido of banana (Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice) that was very delicious.

The food is definitely not good, even for the price! We ended up spending as much as what we spent at La Isla, where we would have had a better quality meal!

Hopefully, they will improve, otherwise, I am not sure how they will be able to stay opened! There are so many good restaurants in the area, that you have to serve decent food and Sol Caribe failed to do it!

No enjoy this time!

Sol Caribe on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: La Isla (Hoboken, NJ)

Image of Food at La Isla in Hoboken - empanada, rice and beans, tostones

La Isla is a little gem! A tiny, non pretentious Cuban restaurant, with delicious dishes at a reasonable price. As it is tiny, be prepare to wait or come early to get a table!

The restaurant was showcased in Throw down with Bobby Flay on the Food Network: the owner, Chef Omar Ginner, competed for the best Stuffed French toast and won. His French toast is stuffed with fresh guava and the breading is made with corn flakes and almonds. It is pretty original, good, although sugary! His restaurant uses a lot of guava and even puts some in their BBQ sauce!

They also serve their interpretation of the Huevos Rancheros! My favorite! There is a little kick that I love! Definitely to try!

Another favorite for me is the beef empanada: it is filled with a very moist ground beef, that even if slightly salty, has an incredible taste. Their maduros (fried yellow plantains) are sweet and moist, not like the ones I had at Cubanitas in Milwaukee! Portions are good a good size! I did not try yet their other specialties, but I do not desperate...

Concerning the service, you do not go for that: it is like a bee hive!

Definitely a restaurant to go to if you are in Hoboken!

Enjoy (I did)!
La Isla on Urbanspoon