We visited Cocina Latina for the first time last night. it was a terrific exerpience. The restaurant and lighting are done beautifully and give the place a warm golden glow. The staff was warm, friendly, and instructive, like you were one of the family. Tasteful modern salsa music adds a bit of festive atmosphere and keeps the conversations private.
The dishes were tasty, including the home-made empanada appetizer, the avacado and grapefruit salad, the pollo al horno, the steak with three dipping sauces, and the paella. Only slight negative re: the food is that the paella could have had more moisture and saffron flavor to it (slight bit dry) but was still a very good dish and beautifully prepared. Banana cream pie was a knockout - best ever with big chunks of banana, dense but not too much cream, and a buttery graham cracker crust. Now wished we also tried the flan; ah well, next time.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Cocina Latina is their location: across from the court house in Kew Gardens on busy Queens Blvd, and near a bunch of bail bond and check cashing places. However, if you drop of your guests at the door, go 100 yards, turn right and turn right, you'll have free validated parking in a safe, manned parking garage. Don't let this aspect deter you!! It is worth the trip as I know of zero other upscale spanish restaurants in a 20 mile vicinity, at least up by me in Nassau County Long Island. By the way, easy access from the Grand Central Parkway: take exit 15 Union Tpk exit.
I will be going back and I heartily recommend this spot to any who are craving delicious Spanish food in a warm inviting cozy environment. Try it out!!
Also, for your foodies and Food Network junkies, this from their website:
Cocina Latina Bar & Grill is set to open its doors on Saturday February 9, 2008. The restaurant is also set to be featured on Food Network's new documentary-style series, Restaurant 101. This new show follows ambitious restaurateurs who are in the process of opening a new restaurant. In this case, viewers will go into the heart of the action and get a behind-the-scenes look at co-owner Chris Dreams' race against time in preparing for its opening. Famed chef and author, David Adjey (Restaurant Makeover) is the series host. Dreams' receptive way of thinking allows him to benefit from Adjey's professional experience and advice. Restaurant 101 depicts the planning, hard work and perseverance invested by Dreams to launch this new restaurant. Viewers will also get a glimpse of everything else involved with getting this eatery off the ground, from designing the space, to the ribbon cutting event.