This time of year in 2007 I was writing ten restaurant reviews a month for Latina, and it didn’t take long before I felt like crying tio if faced with one more plate of beans, yellow rice, plantains or yuca. The gig didn’t even last into the second half of the year, but I still burnt out on nearly everything Latino (Peruvian and Mexican, excepted). I wondered if I’d ever have a craving again.
It took three years. Saturday night and all I could think about was Nuevo Latino fare. And being provincial like most Brooklynites, I didn’t feel like heading into Manhattan (it’s not as if the MTA has been making it easy lately) where Yerba Buena would make a fine choice. Brooklyn has Luz or Bogota Latin Bistro. Both are acceptable not remarkable. Sometimes average is good enough, though.
I chose Luz because I have only been once when it was new (and because the last time I was at Bogota Latin Bistro, I threw up on the sidewalk out front, no fault of the food, maybe the fault of cahaça). Scaffolding nearly obscuring its entire façade, the busy restaurant is a bright spot in a barren patch of Clinton Hill. And it was hopping, only one table open and every bar stool occupied, primarily with date night couples.
Based on casual observation, cocktails outnumber wine orders two to one. I had a Baron Rojo, the blackcurrant, rum, pisco, cranberry juice and aguardiente garnished with star anise was potent yet still sweeter than what I'd typically drink.
Crab ceviche was light and limey and served traditionally with toasted corn kernels.
The pork ribs were an odd choice to start with since I had beef ribs for my main. Once again, a bit sweet, and from a cranberry bbq sauce. Cranberries don't strike me as particularly Latino, but here they were again.
I chose the short ribs because the description seemed so cold weather appropriate: rijoa chestnut jus, butternut squash and shrimp pastelon and pickled okra. The okra seemed like the oddball component but the rich, fatty meat and shrimp-filled pastry covered in melted cheese desperately needed something crispy and tart. Okra was smart.
Luz isn't really a destination restaurant. It's not really even a travel from Carroll Gardens restaurant. But if it were in my neighborhood, I would pay a visit every now and then.
Luz * 177 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY