Saturday, September 20, 2008

Discovering a neighborhood delight at Hell's Kitchen

On Friday evening, I met my good friend CF at Hell's Kitchen, a Latin restaurant in, well, Hell's Kitchen. It's only a few blocks from my apartment, and I've always wanted to go but just have never gotten around to it. Well, consider it checked off my list-- but that doesn't mean I won't go back.

I arrived first and was seated immediately by the friendly hostess. The restaurant is not huge, but it's pretty-- very modern without being stark; nondescript without being boring. The green-bottle chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling were a nice touch.

Once CF arrived, we consulted with our incredibly friendly and incredibly pregnant waitress and eventually placed our orders. Soon, a bread plate swooped down on our table, "on the house." What great service-- except everybody gets it. Oh well; they sort of made us feel special. Sort of.

Free! (sort of) Bread! (sort of)

This being a Latin restaurant, it wasn't just a traditional bread basket. Rather, it was four delicious and warm thin triangles of dense cornbread, accompanied by a dark green spread. We tried to parse the spread while spreading it thickly on bites of cornbread; we decided it involved spinach, probably chiles, some corn, and some other things we couldn't figure out. It was good, and I kept eating it even after the bread had disappeared. Oops?

Shortly after, our entrees arrived. CF had selected the striped bass, which came on a bed of greens, tomatoes, and chayote, sprinkled with shredded fried tortillas and kicked up with a bit of spice. I tried the garnishes, and they were incredibly tasty with a lingering bit of heat at the back of the throat.

A busy and tasty dish

My own selection was the mesclun salad, which came with endive, toasted almonds and hunks of tetilla cheese. The reduced grape vinaigrette was subtle and delicious, and the whole salad was absolutely scrumptuous and satisfying. I wished there had been more there, but then again, I sort of always do, now don't I?

Yummy yummy salad!

We looked at the short dessert menu, but we decided to pass. After paying our reasonable bill, we left the restaurant and stepped out into the cool late-summer evening air. I'm very, very glad I finally got to Hell's Kitchen; while Mexican/Latin/Spanish food is not my favorite, every now and then it's nice to switch things up, and Hell's Kitchen is a great place to do it. Gordon Ramsey jokes aside, the atmosphere is upbeat and just a bit "scene-y" without being overbearing or unfriendly. It would be a great place to take a date. Another solid four-Offset Spatula restaurant in the neighborhood-- what greater discovery could you ask for?
679 Ninth Avenue, between 46th and 47th Streets

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