As a result of my obsession Puerto Rican food, and inability to cook this cuisine, I tried Sofrito the other night at the suggestion of a friend. I had been stalking the menu online every day until I ate here, and still had no idea what I was going to order. Everything sounded amazing: mussels with cilantro and chorizo, watercress and avocado salad, grilled octopus with olives and lemon, lobster gumbo….and those were just the appetizers. I am pleased to report that the actual experience was even better than the virtual one.
Sofrito is located on a somewhat posh street, just west of Sutton Place, and when you enter you feel like you've been transported to Miami. There is a bar/lounge at the front of the restaurant with a large dining room further back. Paintings hang on the deep orange walls, and the restaurant is illuminated by dim lighting and candles. The bar and restaurant were full of people.
My friend and I took a seat in the lounge while waiting for our table, and ordered sangria. It pretty good, and were seated at our table within ten minutes.
What had intrigued me from the beginning were the prices – there wasn’t an entry over $25, and I could now see after walking through the restaurant that the portions were huge. Things got even better when the waiter brought over a basket of warm, buttery grilled bread.
We started with carne frita - crispy fried marinated pork - and braised chicken empanadas with Creole sauce. The empanadas were light and flaky, not at all greasy, and the sauce was tasty. But the real winner was the pork –a huge mound of juicy, salty chunks of meat served with a dipping sauce and fresh lime wedges. There was so much meat in this dish that we couldn’t finish it without ruining our appetites for the main course. Even better, this delicious and plentiful appetizer was only eight dollars.
For our main courses we tried the Mofongo, which was a lot like braised, shredded beef, served over mashed green plantains, and the sirloin steak with onions and sweet plantains. The Mofongo was good, although I found the green plantains to be a bit try, but the steak was awesome. It was a huge slab of meat, fairly tender, flavorful, and the sweet plantains were addictive. I was only able to eat half of it, which is truly rare for me. Oh – and this dish was only sixteen dollars.
It should be noted that throughout our dinner, the waiters sang “happy birthday” to about nine tables, and this was just a weeknight. If you dine here, be prepared for an outburst of singing and clapping every few minutes – it’s inevitable, and even more popular on weekends. However, it didn’t bother me at all -- in fact, I felt it added to the overall experience.
We were so happily full by the time we finished our entrees, we couldn’t even fathom dessert. This is a shame, as I hear their tres leches cake is excellent. I definitely plan on going back for that, and for the whole fried snapper with coconut rice that also caught my eye....