EAT HERE NEW YORK! Rayuela on the Lower East Side

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Last week, on a blustery New York night, my wonderful friend, and uber blogger, CoCo Beautiful and I were headed to the album release party of a hot, new musician at Rockwood Musical Hall in the Lower East Side.

That sounds really damn posh doesn’t it? Well, “album release party” is a very generous description of “watching a dude with a guitar in a tiny bar while wearing a giant, puffy winter coat like an awkward ass.”

But before all of that, we had an hour to stop into one of the many wonderful eateries on Allen Street to get a few small bites and a drink.

After much deliberation, we decided on Rayuela entirely based on the description of their cuisine; “estillo libre Latino” or “freestyle Latino.”

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First off, the decor inside is fantastic. I am a sucker for a restaurant with great mood lighting and decor, and Rayuela was firing on all cylinders in those areas; candles, a tree growing out of the center of the room, leather upholstered sofas, and a beautiful bar.

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As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by our extremely attentive waiter and his support staff. They immediately had their Pan de Bono with Parsley Mojo on our table to munch on while we decided on what to order. Pan de Bono is simply yucca flour and mozzarella cheese baked into a little, doughy piece of heaven. Suprisingly, it isn’t necessarily cheesy. The mozarella gives the yucca flour a rich and gooey texture but it still has the consistency of bread dough. Just, doughy bread dough.

I’m just gonna say “dough” one more time for good measure.

The Parsley Mojo was a fresh, herby, dipping oil made with vinegar, olive oil, and parsley. It was the “freestyle Latino” take on bread served with oil and balsamic vinegar. We liked that combination so much we asked if we could each have one more!

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For my inebriation purposes, I ordered the Mojito and it was stellar. A perfect balance of sugar and mint, this mojito was gone entirely too fast for how much I paid for it.

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After having indulged in our Pan de Bonos and me sucking down my gin, we were ready to order.

The Brussel Sprouts and Toasted Almonds caught my eye.  Two of my many current food obsessions are brussel sprouts and almonds. I have been eating the world’s supply of brussels and I have been roasting my own almonds with date honey and spices.

I should do a blog on that…..

Anyway, the brussel sprouts were cooked perfectly and they did not serve them whole or chopped in half but choppoed up completely. It was a little like a brussel sprouts salad. The almonds were a great buttery edition and they topped it off with a saffron aioli ($7) which intensified the almonds buttery quality while adding a cool drizzle to a hot dish. I honestly could have used something a little more complex than the saffron aioli, like an acid note, but I always think acid punches up a dish. Especially a vegetable dish.

moros y cristianos (forbidden Peruvian rice) , bacon, cannellini beans

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Then I ordered the dish that excited me as soon as I spotted it on the menu, the Panza al Fuego Lento: braised pork belly, moros y cristianos, bacon, cannellini beans and crispy orange ($12). It had all of the makings for a mind blowing dish; creamy beans, salty bacon, citrus, and fatty pork. The Moros y Cristianos is “forbidden Peruvian rice.” (Picture below) So it had everything I liked PLUS something forbidden. I was in.

And honestly, it was not as mind blowing as I expected it to be. The pork belly was slightly dry and the forbidden rice didn’t have much flavor. It seemed it could have been a wonderful edition to the dish but it wasn’t cooked with many spices. They were sort of flavorless. Now, it was still good. But it wasn’t great.

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All in all, I would still reccommend this place. It is a great place for a date night (especially an OKCupid blind date because it is so damn dark and the drinks are so damn strong) or a girl’s night out. It is chic and classy, the service is great, and there are interesting options on the menu.

So treat yourself to some estillo libre Latino cuisine. You will impress your friends with the expansion of your global food knowledge and feel way cooler than I could ever hope to be.

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