Last night went to La Taza de Cafe to celebrate the birthdays of 3 coworkers (and myself). We had a solid 13 at our table and ended up breaking into smaller groups to order. I was in the "we eat everything, especially meat!" group which numbered 6. We decided to order all the tapas on the menu (14 items) which I was quite excited about. A description of the dishes we ate (I got the list off the website and although it was updated 2 days ago, our menu was slightly different but I think I managed to get it right):
Platanos Maduros ($7) Plantains cooked well although sliced thinner than usual. Served with a chunk of fried queso fresco which went fine with the plantains but didnt especially enhance the dish.
Pan de La Taza ($5) Tasty but a little one-dimensional. Basically just bread with garlic scraped on and grilled. The bean puree to accompany was again tasty but nothing special.
Fried Yucca ($7) This was just mediocre. The yucca chunks were probably thicker than they should have been so that even though the outsides were fried and salted nicely, the starchy dry bulk of the middle negated what flavor there was. Also the Mojo Sauce was mainly chopped garlic and salt in oil and although I piled it on to give the yucca some flavor and moistness it didnt really help much.
Chops de Cordero ($15) Lamb is usually too gamey for me but I tried a bite after everyone started exclaiming after biting into their pieces. Very tender and succulent. However one person commented that for 3 very small chops, $15 was a bit much.
Camarones al Mojo de Ajo ($10) When I was scooping my serving onto my plate and tasted the sauce alone I thought it was too sweet. However, with the prawns it was somehow just right. I still was not at all tempted to eat the rest of the sauce with the rice by itself.
Ceviche Andino ($12) Not very good. The marinade was more like salt water soup, hardly any lime. Seafood was okay.
Pinchos Argentinos ($9) Alright, nothing special. Meat was tender enough, but the seasonings were again kind of boring.
Picada ($7) This was my first time having blood sausage. I have no idea what its supposed to taste like, but it was pretty flavorful, more crumbly than I expected.
Chipotle Albondigas ($10) I really enjoyed the sauce this came with finally some flavor in the meal! More multidimensional and the Chipotle gave a nice gentle kick. The meatballs themselves were a little sweet to my taste but others enjoyed them. This dish was also garnished with plantain chips which were fried lightly so they were still a little soft. They went fantastically with the sauce.
Chicken Yalodde ($9) Just okay. Chicken was quite dry.
"Puerco Viejo" Empanadas ($11) Too sweet and pork didnt have enough flavor.
"El Cubano" Cuban Sandwich ($8.5) Again too sweet for my taste. Also not as authentic as I had hoped and too expensive for the portion.
Arroz con Pollo ($12) Probably my least favorite dish. Tasted like dry chicken with Uncle Bens Rice!
Seafood with rice? (not listed in the online menu) Shrimp and mussels in a tomato sauce served over a bed of saffron (or imitation saffron) rice. Edible.
Side of Cuban Black Beans and Rice ($5) Beans were pretty good, rice was okay.
4 of us also shared 2 carafes of sangria, the Tranquilo (red) and Papaya (white). I thought the wine used in the Tranquilo seemed...musty? I don't know, it wasn't very good. Also the addition of orange liqueur seemed a bit heavy handed. On the other hand I really enjoyed the Papaya sangria, light and refreshing.
I didn't have dessert because I had spotted them earlier and wasn't really interested - portions were too small for the price, and although I was actually still hungry, I decided to skip it. Did get a taste of the tres leches, it was just alright.
I hate to be all down on the food because the atmosphere really was quite nice. Saturday night is flamenco night, which meant there were short sets of guitar and dance periodically during the night. The performance area was quite small, but large enough for the dancer to pull up diners and embarrass them every once in a while. Also, because of the way the restaurant is set up, only about half the space can comfortably view the entertainment.
In the end, I had a good time, the venue was nice for talking and eating and we enjoyed the music, but I really wish the food had been better, flavors more complex. Also, I spent a lot more than I would like given the quality of food and the fact that I was still hungry at the end. Then again, I have an unnatural appetite for someone my size. I have to say I won't be back...unless someone reports that they've improved of course!