Far uptown, past the manic energy of Times Square, the upper crust elegance of Columbus Circle, the Afro-American culture and hip wine bars of Harlem, and one subway stop past Yankee stadium, lies a pop-up restaurant that represents New York cuisine in the way only a native New Yorker can.
Samuel Lopez and his lovely partner Susan serve artistically plated food alongside beautiful paintings by local artists, where the art is for sale and the food is for (rapid) consumption. The ambiance as is cozy as it is chic, and allows for more thought, planning, and interest than an evening spent at a crowded restaurant downtown.
Here’s how it works: make a reservation online or via telephone. The Monday before your meal, you will receive a list of menu options crafted by Sam, with a final deadline of Thursday, and Saturday morning you will receive a final email with the pop-up’s location.
Lopez’s cooking stays true to his Puerto Rican roots, and while the menu options were on the simplistic side, the execution was anything but.
Here’s what we ate:
Four humungous shrimps, lightly battered in panko and smothered in shaved coconut, gave a sweet and savory kick-off to this meal. A bright, clean salad of arugula, pine nuts, and feta cheese lighten up the dish, making it well balanced yet filling.
Zesty Lemon Chicken
Using sour cream in place of egg to bread the chicken allowed this delicious piece of poultry to really shine. The accompanying rice and red beans, sliced avocado, and sweet plantain make it a true Puerto Rican dish, one that I could see myself making a staple in my week night dinners.
Honey & Ginger Salmon
Expertly cooked salmon is satisfying even with the most basic of condiments, but the sweet and spicy tang of this honey and ginger really accentuated Lopez’s technique. If you love salmon, you’ll love this dish.
Flan is a tricky dessert to have as the only option. Texture is a big deterrent for most people, and flans I’ve had in the past have ranged from a semi-freddo to a pile of pudding. This flan was absolutely perfect: sturdy enough to use a fork, wobbly enough where you didn’t really need to poke it. The almonds and berries were a lovely way to round out the last course of this fantastic meal.