Thursday, April 30, 2009
Last night I met friends for dinner at Rayuela, down on Allen St., and had such a great experience I have to share it with you. I'd never been before, but looking at the menu, reviews, website, etc., beforehand, I expected a crowded, hectic LES restaurant with an intimidating and overwhelming menu. Not so. The restaurant was beautiful, service outstanding, and food melt-in-your-mouth.
I think my friend Charlie summed it up when he described our waitress as the greatest waitress he's ever met in his entire life. It was true. She was bizarrely perfect in her friendly but not too friendly demeanor, back-of-her-own-hand knowledge of the menu, and instinct on what we should order. It was really quite odd how perfect she was. She ordered everything for us and it couldn't have been better. We were literally stunned! If you are an aspiring waitress, definitely seek her out for training. I don't even know how to describe it - we could not stop talking about her unparalleled skill.
Anyway, beyond that, the restaurant was perfect for what we needed. As a group of 7, we were whisked upstairs to a central table that was still quiet enough for us to hear each other (very important when half the group doesn't speak English as their first language). The restaurant was described by our waitress as a fusion of flavors from all spanish-speaking countries, thus blending fruits from the Carribbean with spices from Mexico with heartier meat dishes from Spain and so on. We went with it.
We started off with the appetizer special (upon waitress-of-the-year's recommendation), fresh guacamole with jumbo shrimp and lump crab. It was so good I considered ordering a solo portion for my main. The seafood was scrumptious and subtle - a perfect ratio of meat to avocado - and guac a perfect mix of everything that makes guac my favorite food in the world. I'll let you all know what happens when I attempt to put shrimp into my next guac. (Ahoy, disaster!)
Next we had three of their ceviches. Being solely a shellfish eater, I can only speak to the Langostina ceviche, which was lobster done in a spicy pineapple ceviche. Again, out of this world. The other two - a tuna/watermelon and "seven powers of the sea" were spoken of highly by my tablemates. After that, all seven of us licked our plates for the main course; choices ranged from beef to duck to paella. I had the duck breast marinated in a sugarcane sauce atop a corn bread. I am still dreaming about it.
After three courses and three bottles of wine, we knew better than to let our waitress even start talking about dessert. Of course, it was wonderful company - a reunion of friends from the art fair in Holland that we all worked at - which will always make a good meal better, but in this case, it made an already excellent meal just plain outstanding.
For menu, info, etc. www.rayuelanyc.com