Thursday, November 20, 2008

sophie's choice

it will bring you to tears. no, not the meryl streep movie; i'm talking about "sophie’s cuban cuisine", the nyc chain-let that will have you begging, "dame más!"

sophie's cuban cuisine
23 East 23rd Street / various locations
New York, NY 10010
212-260-8884 / 8886

there are a half dozen or so locations throughout the city, from downtown to east 50th, sophie's has got the latin comfort food market cornered. i've been a regular at the chambers street location since it opened several years ago. the service is usually shoddy and the hours are inconvenient (closed on the weekends; closes at 6pm on weekdays) but the generous portions, authentic cuisine and friendly prices have kept me coming back all these years. recently a new location sprung up at 23 east 23rd Street between park and 5th (where the wendy’s used to be). i was pleased to discover that this location is open until 8pm. what can i say? i'm a late eater.

i had a little bit of everything just to make sure this noob offshoot wasn't slacking, and i am pleased to report that they pass my inspection with flying colors.

-- chicken patty / empanada de pollo

crispy on the outside, a moist flavor explosion on the inside. perfectly seasoned and studded with salty green olive bits. sophie's empanadas come in both the beef and chicken varieties. both are outstanding, however, i prefer the chicken when i when my main is pork or beef. i love to drown these things in their enigmatic green sauce; i can go through half a squeeze bottle of that stuff in one sitting -- it's THAT good.

-- mashed cassava with pork / croqueta de yuca

a giant croquette, stuffed with stewed ground pork. the cassava is light resulting in a croquette that is considerably more delicate than one made from potato; it really lets the ground pork sing. these are also enhanced by dousing them in the green sauce.

-- fried sweet plantains / maduros

they are good; up to par with any other maduros i've had. i don't know what else to say about them. these are one of the few things on the menu that are not especially enhanced by the green sauce. i dip them in said sauce anyway.

-- baked chicken sandwich / pollo al horno

lighter on the wallet and the stomach; sophie's pressed sandwiches are a great way to sample more of the menu when you aren't up for a full meal. the chicken was well seasoned and sufficiently moist. pickled onions and a slathering of mayo push this sandwich over the top; you will be back to try others (go for the cubano!).

-- fried pork chops / chuletas fritas with yellow rice and beans

two crispy, crunchy pork chops smothered in caramelized onions; i was left sucking the bones! if you are into thick, double cut pork chops, you might be disappointed, but if thin-cut, flash fried chops are more your speed then you are in good company.

-- roast pork / pernil with yellow rice and beans; pickled onions

i have NEVER been let down by this dish. EVER. i've had my share of pernil from many different vendors. hell, i've even made it myself. NOTHING compares to sophie's. slow-cooked to succulent perfection, the layers of flavor go well beyond the last bite. it's the type of meal you are still thinking about during lunch the next day. there is nothing quite like stumbling upon that hidden cache of pork fat buried deep within your mound of pulled pork. it's a religious experience. i always ask for extra pickled onions with mine, i don't think they even charge extra.

do yourself a favor, get down to a sophie's location and order this dish with rice and beans. ask for the extra onions and DOUSE it in the green sauce.
then come back and tell me if i'm lying.

"dale más duro!"

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

1 comment:

  1. sophies is whack. you burned off all your taste buds eating hot sauce at halal.