Located at 940 8th Avenue (between 56th and 55th Street) in the Columbus Circle area of Manhattan, Ladino is set to become a new jewel on the crown of New York City’s superb kosher restaurants.
Ladino opened its doors last week on Thursday, this past Tuesday evening I decided to try it out. As I walked in, I was immediately struck by its beautifully themed décor, that blended the modern with a traditional but upscale Mexican ambiance.
The very talented Alex Morales (a fellow Uruguayan), was finishing his reproductions of two Diego Rivera murals:
The unfinished Flower Vendor is on the left and El Vendedor de Alcatraces (Calla Lilies) is on the right. The décor was completed with antiqued, floral, copper ceiling tiles.
There is a nice modern themed bar at the back but, because Ladino opened ready for Pessach, it only offered wine (mevushal) selections, no beer, no liquor.
I came in as soon as they opened for dinner at 5:00pm, so as to make sure there would be few people to get in the way of my taking photos of the place, by the time I left at around 7:30pm it was starting to fill up.
Under the direction of Alexandre Petard (who was the extraordinary opening chef at the late, lamented, La Carne Grill) – who has a noteworthy record of having worked at some of New York’s most celebrated restaurants, such as Jean Georges, Lespinasse and Les Halles – Ladino offers a nice selection of Tapas (hot and cold), appetizers and main courses.
I started the evening with Guacamole and Yuka chips…
It was the best guacamole I’ve had in quite a while, very flavorful without extra spices that could detract from the delicate taste. I went on to try samplings of the Ceviche de Atun (Tuna), Ceviche de Salmon, and Ceviche de Red Snapper. None of them showed any fishiness in either flavor or odor, I liked all three. Obviously they were very fresh!
I washed it all down with a Binyamina Chardonnay 2011. It was a medium bodied, fresh, fruity, aromatic wine with notes of pear, melon and citrus peel. Light gold with a slight greenish tint in color, though not my favorite choice (perhaps because of its youth) it actually matched the ceviches quite well.
I segued with Pincho Moreno, a set of chicken and beef skewers hot Tapas dish. It normally comes with a house mayonnaise (made to perfection by the French chef!), but I requested a bit of guacamole as well.
While the mayonnaise was my favorite, the guacamole provided an interesting taste variation to the very tender, very juicy, very flavorful poultry and beef skewers. Beautiful to the eye, as you can see above.
My favorite of the evening, since I am a carnivore to the core, was the Steak a la Cazuela…
Nicely presented in a cast iron pan seating on a trivet, the steak pieces were surrounded and topped with mixed peppers, onion, mushrooms and guacamole. The aroma was captivating, the juiciness and flavor conjured up the tastiest steaks I’ve tasted in my youth in Uruguay. With the vegetables having absorbed some of the meat juices, the totality of this dish worked like a carefully orchestrated symphony under the baton of one of the world’s great conductors. I washed down these two meat dishes with a glass of red wine consisting of a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite syrah. I did not get the name nor the vintage but it was very fruity in its aroma, with strong citrus notes, not so perfectly balanced tannins (again, a young wine), with hints of purple plum and a mild tobacco with a long finish. Interestingly, it paired superbly well with the steak.
I crowned the evening with a very nice, parve, mango ice cream (complements of Chef Alexandre… It pays to be among the first customers at a new restaurant!). It was hard to believe it contained no milk, but the ability to substitute is part and parcel of a real French chef’s magic.
A perfect place to go out to during chol hamo’ed. As for me, I expect to return after Pessach to see what the regular menu, with far fewer limitations, will be like.
Chag kasher vesame’ach!