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Oakland – Sofrito Puerto Rican Restaurant

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Oakland – Sofrito Puerto Rican Restaurant

rworange | Jan 14, 2008 11:36 AM

The Puerto Rican food at Sofrito is simple and has that quality of good Cuban food … the rice and beans are so satisfying but it is hard to say why … there’s nothing special about them that is obvious.

Sofrito uses organic beans and free-range chicken.

The restaurant closes at six on Sunday and we got there at 5:15 while they were starting to close up. A lot was sold out so we went with what was left and were very happy.

DINNER

Pasteles
Papas rellenas
Pollo guisado
Pernil
Tostones
Black beans
White rice
Green salad

PAPAS RELLENAS
How can you not like baseball-sized and shaped mashed potatoes with a filling of ground beef and an outer crisp red coating? $2

PERNIL
Menu description: Slow roasted pork, marinated in garlic and spices. $8.95

Lovely, tender chunks of pork on a bed of crispy pork cracklings, the pork meat with the hints of garlic and spice.

POLLO GUISADO
Menu description: Stewed free range chicken, in a red sauce with sofrito, bell peppers, onions, chunks of potato and carrots. $8.95

The chicken has the most wonderful marinade, the meat infused with garlic and spices. Again, end of the day, there was one potato, no carrots and not a lot of the sofrito. Still a good dish and they warned us about this before ordering.

RICE AND BEANS
All that was left was plain white rice and black beans. The beans looked soupy but were rich and had a smoky taste and were wonderful with the moist, perfectly-cooked white rice.

TOSTONES
Menu description: Crispy, fried green plantains.

They were out of the platano maduro (sweet, fried plantains), but I liked the crunchy texture of the tostones which came with a bowl of a mild pink sauce. On the home page of the website they have Jonathan Kauffman’s review where he wrote …

“… the plantains? They'll never let you down. The platanos maduros melt down as they sizzle in the oil, turning velvety and sweet. For the tostones, the chefs pick green, hard plantains and cut them into thick slices. They fry the fruit once, pound it flat, then fry it again until crisp and golden on the outside and starchy on the inside. For dipping, you get a small bowl of mojo sauce on the side -- garlic pounded together with more garlic, with a little vinegar, tomato, and spices thrown in for color.”

GREEN SALAD
Since they were out of sides except for black beans, they offered green salad. My friend had this said the chunks of avocado were good, but the tomatoes out-of-season (he used the word ‘green’) and the dressing seemed to be of the Wishbone variety. He suggested ordering it without dressing and using the Goya olive oil on the table and a squeeze of lemon.

PASTELES
The pastel we had was bland and could have been either the chicken or pork. Wrapped in a banana leaf and on the idea of tamale but the masa is plantain-based and maybe some root vegetables like yautia. There was also a small green olive. They looked pretty much like the photo in this link with a recipe. The second link show how complicated pastels can be to make with step by step pictures and some of the root veggies used for the masa.
http://www.whats4eats.com/recipes/r_s...
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/52...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_...

The texture of the plantains in the masa was unpleasant to me. Think of what plantains boiled for hours might be like. I might order these again because it was the first time I’ve tried them and I was just not prepared for what was being served. Maybe next time I can be more objective. $3

Mofongo was also on the white board that day but we didn’t try it $4

There are three dishes every day. The menu lists what is available. There is a small white board up front with what is available which might include items not on their regular rotation like the mofongo and papas rellenas. The banner outside the restaurant advertises a daily lunch special for $4.95. .

There are about a half a dozen tables in the bright, cheerful, yellow dining area at the back. Each table has a bottle of olive oil, hot sauce of different varieties and a house-made oil infused with garlic and herbs. There is a long steam table and kitchen in the front and from what I’ve read the best items are those that hold up well and improve from long-cooking like the beans and stewed chicken.

I look forward to many more visits to Sofrito. All that was available due to closing were bottled drinks but I’d like to try the cafe con leche which is made from organic coffee or one of the fresh fruit smoothies. The stewed salt cod gets positive mentions. Other dishes I want to try …
- Empanadas: Stuffed pastry shell (Chicken or Beef) $2.00
- Alcapurrias: Stuffed fried plantain $2.00
- Bacalaitos: Salted codfish fritters (Seasonal) $2.00

Not everything is successful, as is the case in most places. I'd probably skip the salad and Kauffman's review says the rice can be inconsistant and the baked chicken and pork chops might not be the thing to get from a steam table at the end of the day.

There is one post below where the poster had the same dish I did and wasn't thrilled, but wanted stewed chicken made to order, where for me a dish like this benefits from the flavors melding and I'd quote the last paragraph of Kauffman's review if I could, but read it for a on-target description of that chicken.

In this link about Sofrito, the high school student of a Chowhound poster wrote this perfect description …
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/45174

“As I tiptoed into Sofritos restaurant, I heard the sound of the maracas in the Puerto Rican music just making me want to get a girl to start dancing, but at the same time, I just focused on the food because the aromas made me lose my mind. I just wanted to start munching. As I waited in line smelling the tasty food, I turned around and stared at the wall. I was blinded by the bright yellow walls looking like the shiny sun. On the wall hung some paintings that represented the Puerto Rican culture and some pictures of the owner when he was younger … The pictures were black and white and framed and showed the owner of the restaurant and his wife when they got married … The way they got the name Sofritos was because in Puerto Rico, Sofrito means a whole bunch of spices and aromas together. They called it Sofritos because Puerto Ricans are always together, and the name really matched the restaurant. ”

That sums it up … Sofrito, a welcoming, cheerful restaurant with tasty, nothing-fancy, home-cooked food.

Other Chowhound reports
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35083...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44538...
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396208

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