Restaurant Review: La Pulperia Coctelería and Rustic Latin Restaurant

My blogger buddy, Christine Ongsueng, and I are back again to review a new restaurant. This time, we give our take on a little hidden Latin gem, La Pulperia NYC, nestled just off 8th avenue on the restaurant-heavy 46th street. We thought we knew what to expect from this exotic hideaway that seats 60, but we were more than pleasantly surprised by the menu, service, and entire experience of La Pulperia. Fellow foodies will love this Coctelería and Rustic Latin cuisine. Named for the general stores found throughout South America, Chef/Owner Carlos Barroz, and Victor Medina combine Latin America’s simple culinary refinement, with Spanish and Italian influences to exquisite results, many of which are vegan, and Gluten-free. For our review, we were set to indulge in their amazing 5-Course Chef Tasting Menu, which is available for $50.00 (they also offer a 3-Course Tasting Menu for $35.00). Read on for a detailed account of our heavenly experience.
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First Round of Cocktails

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Carlos Gardel Cocktail

Chris: It’s as if they knew a caffeine fiend was going to dine with them, the first cocktail we tasted was a Yerba Mate based drink with orange juice and Spanish vodka. This also came with a bit of a fiery presentation — the waiter singed the orange peel above the drink to release the citrusy sweet essence. Creamy, woodsy, and spiced, this drink was definitely a unique experience.

Glasgow: Talk about a pick me up! If you happen to be the victim of a rough day that has worn you out, and you need a burst of energy, let the combination of Black Tea from Argentina, Caffeine, Orange Juice, and other ingredients that make up this unique cocktail, lift not only your spirit, but your energy as well.

La Tuna Cocktail

Chris: The next cocktail was a matcha-based spiced drink made with Pisco, agave nectar, prickly pear, and cinnamon. I imagine this is what retired sea captains drink to reminisce about their adventures. The masculine smokiness of the drink was balanced by the refreshing nature of the prickly pear, but it was still something to be sipped and savored…at least to a lightweight like me.

Glasgow: It’s like they made this cocktail according to my personality, a touch of sweetness, a bit of freshness, and a little spice. This pink concoction was as delicious as it was pretty (I almost didn’t want to disturb the decorative swirl, but one sip made that feeling disappear quite quickly). I love a sweet cocktail and this sophisticated pink cocktail, which immediately made me think of hibiscus flowers and strawberry puree took me on a mental trip to the islands.

Salmon Brûlée – 1st Course

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Chris: Brulees are not just for dessert. The salmon tartare is at the heart of this seemingly delicate plate. Tartares are usually served alone and naked and often leave that fishy aftertaste. However, this particular dish perfectly combined the savory with the sweet. Balancing the rich savory flavor of the salmon with strawberries and cream elevated your taste buds to new heights.

Glasgow: The only Brulee I’ve ever enjoyed as a creme…as in dessert and never thought it could be anything but that. I was so happy to be proven wrong with this sweet and savory first course. It may look very much like a dessert but this combination of cream cheese, strawberries, Salmon tartare, and ginger Leche de Tigre, (not a tiger’s milk as the name translates, rather it’s a citrus-based marinade that cures seafood in ceviche dishes), hit the perfect note, much like the first note of your favorite song.

Lobster Taquitos – 2nd Course

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Chris: Lobsters in tacos I’m sure are a thing, but I guarantee you’ve never had them like this. Chunks of Maine lobsters mixed with avocado cream sauce, citrus juice, grilled pineapple, and a hint of Japanese mayo is a culinary excursion amidst bite sized taco shells. I usually shy away from anything spicy and by shy away I really mean run away crying and screaming from the scene but this time, I was surprised at how much I loved the little kick of spice in the tacos. It wasn’t so spicy that it overwhelmed the palette but more like a subtle emergence that lingered awhile before the wave of juicy sweetness from the pineapple took over.

Glasgow: I used the think the world started and ended with fish tacos, but those thoughts are long gone after devouring this delicious second course. Boasting a crispy wonton shell, stuffed with the creamy avocado sauce, fresh Maine Lobster, grilled pineapple, Cilantro and the spicy Kewpie mayo, I know I’ll never go back to regular fish tacos. This dish is what I imagine eating at an open beach-side restaurant. I loved its fresh, tangy, sweet and refreshing taste, it settled with a very smooth and subtle kick.

Second Round of Cocktails

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Smoky Room Cocktail

Chris: In a past life, I was the proverbial old man by the sea… And this was my drink of choice. Mezcal, rum, tequila, and passion fruit are blended together for a deeply intriguing taste with hint of smokiness. The Mezcal and tequila are softly balanced by the splash of passion fruit, making it just the right amount of sweet.

Glasgow: The first of what I refer to as the dark and stormy cocktails. I, like Chris, also imagine men on the sea. I imagine this is to be a brew Pirates would enjoy after braving a storm on the high seas. It featured passion fruit, a tangy and tart fruit juice, that when combined with the Mezcal, put some hair on your chest so to speak and lit a fire in your belly. If you love your cocktail with a bit of a bite, this is a must.

Chilango Cocktail

Chris: This drink perfectly sums up the island life. The special ingredient, tamarind, a sound fruit found in many tropical islands is the core of the margarita. To offset the tartness, mango and a hint of jalapeno gives this drink a sweet but spicy kick. Again, I was pretty surprised at how fond I was of this drink, despite its spicy element.

Glasgow: This second cocktail was even more robust than the Smoky Room, as least for me. If the first one put hair on your chest, the combination of tangy Tamarind, Jalapeno, and red pepper in the Chilango will turn you into a werewolf. This is the cocktail that took me down and let me know it was king. I had no power left, and all I could do was submit. Be careful, this cocktail bites back, and you may find yourself ordering bread to satisfy it.

SIDE NOTE: Tipsy or not, we recommend ordering the hot, buttered grilled bread, just for its smokiness

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Squash and Crab Gnocchi – 3rd Course

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Chris: Like most people, I’ve always had gnocchi the traditional way, which was why I was a bit surprised that it can be made from squash. I happen to love squash and crab so this was already a winner in my book. And just like the previous dishes and cocktails, the tastes were far more complex than I thought. To go with the crab and squash were some spinach, sage, and cheese doused in brown butter sauce. Together, it made for a rich flavor explosion that blended together perfectly.

Glasgow: I, on the other hand, have enjoyed quite a few Gnocchi varieties, but none have come close to these bites of heaven, especially as I’ve never thought of myself as a fan of Butternut Squash. paired with crab, citrus brown butter, sage, and spinach, I officially became a fan of Butternut Squash, and fully addicted to this 3rd course.

BBQ Pacu Fish Ribs – 4th Course

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Chris: Given a choice between meat and fish, I’d almost always choose meat. Having been served fish that looked like ribs, I may have to rethink my natural impulses. The BBQ Fish Ribs were absolutely magnificent. The fish was Pacu, a cousin to the Piranha (thanks Animal Planet!), was arranged in a wood slab slathered with chipotle sauce and topped off with mandarin oranges. It was melt-off the bones grilled goodness that was quite juicy and zesty.

Glasgow: If anyone ever asked me why I love fish, I would set a plate of this unworldly delicious dish and say “this dish is my reasons 1-10 why I love fish” and reasons 1-5 would just be my eyes rolling into the back of my head in utter pleasure. The taste is beyond divine, it is orgasmic. It boasts the smokiness, aroma and sweetness of award-winning BBQ, thanks to its orange chipotle BBQ sauce, and “meatiness” of the fish. As Chris stated the Pacu is cousin to the Piranha, and while she told me about the Animal Planet episode, all I could think of was….“damn, I could go for another round or two of BBQ Pacu”. It’s almost unreal that something can be that delicious.

Hangar Steak – 5th Course

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Chris: And then there was the meat. To end a night of fusion seafood, we had an amazingly delectable hangar steak. We ordered it medium rare and it came with Potatoes Au Gratin, and pickled eggplant and cauliflower. I loved that the sides were not the typical heavy starches.The vinegar infused vegetables went perfectly well with the mouthwatering steak topped off with some chimichurri sauce. Tender, juicy, and packed with a lot of flavor, the hangar steak was divinely done.

Glasgow: Because one image isn’t enough to do it justice, I’ve added three so you can get a better understanding at the succulence of this cut of meat that was cooked to perfection and paired with side dishes that were matched as if by divine decree. The steak was incredibly tender, and bursting with juiciness. It was the perfect end to an immaculate meal.

The Setting

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Chris: Deep within the restaurant strata of the theater district, among all the big named chain restaurants and eateries that tout a marquee as big as some of the Broadway productions, lies a small almost missable hallway of a place packed with so much thought, flavor, and heart. La Pulperia feels like a true New Yorker’s secret spot. A long bar area greets you as you walk in, the rest of the decor is what I endearingly call rustic nautical– filled with worn wood and the ceiling bedecked in ropes and bulbs makes you feel like you’ve been invited into the hull of a well-voyaged ship to have dinner with the captain.

Glasgow: You can get lost in time at La Pulperia. The intimate lighting (courtesy of the brass lamps with Edison bulbs that hang from the ceiling), decadent aromas, and rustic decor (it features handcrafted floor tiles from Mexico, and reclaimed wood from Brazil on the ceiling and walls), will enchant you to remain in your seat, and that is completely fine. while there, you will find there is nowhere else you’d want to be. it’s the perfect setting for dates, be they first, second, or twentieth. If you find yourself not hungry (although the aromas will change your mind), the restaurant boasts a 12-seat, marble-topped bar where you can enjoy the above-mentioned cocktails, a many more from mixologist Jorge Velasco.

Bottom line:
If you’re craving something uniquely authentic, get thee to La Pulperia. As cheesy as this may sound, everything in this quaint restaurant was done with heart. The local, organic, farm to table focus isn’t pretentious; It exudes from the freshness of the dishes to the knowledge and warmth of the staff to the multicultural guests mingling at the bar and dancing by the live performer (which consisted of a woman on a keyboard passionately giving her own soulful spin to classic Spanish ballads to popular bossa nova tunes). Hospitable life and friendly faces abound in this small and intimate setting; which by the way, makes it a great date spot– not to mention that you’ll impress your date by finding such a hidden treasure in the heart of the city.

La Pulperia Hells Kitchen is located at 371 West 46th Street. Make a reservation for brunch or dinner by calling (212) 960-3176. You will thank us later.

 

La Pulperia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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