Fusion food is always interesting, not just when people experiment but more when it is part of a culture. So I was curious to try Calle Daõ, a Cuban-Chinese restaurant located close to Bryant Park. It was not my first meal of this sort, having dined in the past few times at La Caridad on the Upper West Side, a much more casual place. I liked the food there, that I found quite creative, but the dimmed lights and loud music spoiled a bit the meal. So if like me you like to see your food and a quieter setting, I suggest you either go for lunch (hopefully quieter) or sit close to the door, on the few tables next to the windows...In terms of food, you can find classic Cuban dishes like yucca fries, plantains, or rice and beans, and then some that stand out and seem more branching out to the two cultures like the goat neck that I would have eaten if it was served with something else than bok choy! But overall, I had a good meal (Jodi was not as enthusiastic as I was, finding her dish a bit bland - I should mention that the vegetarian choices are limited). Here is what we tried:
As a cocktail, Opium, made with Bourbon, tamarind, Ruby red grapefruit, lemon and poppy seeds. Quite good and well balanced, it was not too strong.
Yucca fries: fairly classic but always a crowd pleaser. It was served with their house mojo sauce and a gochujang ketchup that was my favorite of the two.
Jodi had the Mushroom & Broccoli, a dish made with King Oyster, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Chinese Broccoli with Lo Mein Noodles dressed in Garlic Hoisin. She thought it was bland: I did not. For sure it was not the kind of dish that would sweep me off my feet but I found it decent.
On my side, I went for the black rice seafood paella that was very good, with lots of seafood in it. It was tasty: the rice seemed to have been cooked with the seafood and not put together before serving (I had a bad paella many years ago in Miami where you could tell the rice was cooked separately). However, there was no soccarat, the delicious rice crisp that forms when cooking that makes paella so good.
Last was dessert: we could not have left without ordering one, their menu offering mouth watering options. So we chose the bunuelos, that are like beignets. These were fantastic: hot, not greasy, smothered in Chinese five spice sugar. It was served with a chocolate coconut sauce that I did not really care about, the bunuelos being so good, there was no need for it. Although I admit that since I had churros with condensed milk at Victor’s Café, I am always hoping people would serve condensed milk instead of chocolate...
So we had a good meal at Calle Daõ: I found the food very good and even if the noise level was too high for me, I would go back and better pick my seat...
Enjoy (I did)!
If you like the post, the photos or the blog, please feel free to share it or post a comment. Merci!
Calle Dao - 38 W 39th Street, New York, NY 10018