I had dinner last night with my wife and my parents (and brother) at Beso on Fifth avenue and Union street in Park Slope. The food was great the service was spotty. Let's begin with the positive: I've never been disapointed at Beso, where I have had several really well put together meals. Last night we got several appetizers, all of which were delish. The baby artichokes escabeche were the standout, really soft meaty stems, served on a multi bean salad. Queso fresca empenadas were pretty good too, the cheese was hard to detect but the filling was still great, very flavorful, and the thick crust was flaky and somehow chewy at the same tiime, the best crust I've had in a while. Green and ripe plantain chips, sliced thin the long way were a superb vehicle for a creamy guac (no mayo in here). The server also gave us a super dish, gratis, of corn fritters with a small bowl of dipping sauce of something similar to a light sour cream that had a blot of a different, cumin flavored sauce that was refreshing and just a little spicy. My wife and I shared the cuban sandwich, which was memorable and suprised me. I get amazing cubans in midtown, and didn't want to get a possibly inferior sandwich at triple the price, only to be dissapointed. I am glad I did though, the pork was really amazing, smoky, almost barbecued tasting, lots of smoke. The bread wasn't anything special, but the sandwich was easily worth the 9.50 due to the incredible pork. My parents are kosher, and are limited in their selections on the menu, which doesn't change too often, and that they keep going back to this place speaks to their high opinion of the dishes that they can have. They shared a plantain crusted fried mahi mahi, which my mom felt was overcooked. Actually she thought the empenada appetizers were too, and while I can agree that the fish was a little too done, I thought the empenadas were just right. The crust on the fish was a little too crusty, and probably a shade or two darker than I would have liked, and the fish inside a little too dry. The yucca chips the fish came with were mealy, but that's yucca for you. My mom had a mojito she seemed to like alot, my dad had a pilsner he didn't comment on ,and both my wife and I had an English porter, a Samuel Smith. I had never heard of this beer before, and it was super-top notch. It's going to be tough going back to my stalwart, Baltika #6, which I like but is pretty poor quality. Don't dis me but I like shitty beer, Old English, and Colt 45. I think malt liquor was the only good thing I got out of high school. This beer however, showed me how much I would like better quality beers if I was willing to shell out the cash.
The service at Beso leaves something to be desired, but don't get me wrong: our waiter and the server who brought our dishes to the table were very friendly, the waiter greeted us smiling, explained the specials well and answered the questions we had, he even laughed at our bad jokes. They were just very very slow. Our drinks sat on the bar for several minutes and it took several minutes for our waiter to come back to take our order for the entrees after we had told him we were ready. None of us were in a big rush or anything, but we were left sitting there for a while wishing we had our drinks, then wishing we could order our entrees then wishing they would remove our empty plates of food. A positive note on the service though, they were quick to help us move mid-meal, to a different table to accomodate my brother, who joined us late. Overall this was an almost great meal at an almost great place at very reasonable prices.