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El Castillo de Jagua

It’s not like El Castillo de Jagua’s food or decor setting screams out for a photo essay (unless you were documenting the gentrification of the Lower East Side, which I’m not). You’ve likely seen fluorescently lit meat, rice and beans before. But photos are a fun crutch; it’s not always easy describing how food looks and tastes. Unfortunately, my batteries died.

I’ve always had a problem with that. I had rechargables that never stayed strong so I burn through double As now. Despite my camera being adequate (I’m fine with 3.2 megapixels. 7 and beyond is lost on me), I’d really like something smaller, lighter with a wider angle lens that can handle low light, a freaking foodie camera (actually, foodies use SLRs and mini tripods and shit). I’m acclimating to this new expendable income concept but I broke down this afternoon and bought a Canon PowerShot SD800 IS online. Whether or not the device will actually make it into my hands is the real issue (my current camera got lost in the mail the first time it was shipped, and if you don’t believe the horror that is the Brooklyn P.O. just read these accounts from last week [yes, I added my two cents]).

The restaurant’s no frills approach extends to their menu. There are only two appetizers: shrimp cocktail and chicken wings, and dessert is whatever cakes might be in the diner-style glass domes on the counter. But that’s superfluous; the main attraction are the hefty daily specials. There’s a lot of overlap between days so if you like pernil like I do, it’s available more than once a week (in fact, I think it’s on the permanent menu too). Supposedly, they also make a strong cubano but I'd just eaten one earlier in the week and couldn't justify it.

Their roast pork is super porcine, the opposite of white, bland supermarket chops and loins. A single plate is dedicated to a pile of soft, dark juicy-oily meat topped with a good sized square of crackling skin. Soupy fat brown beans and white rice (I’m not crazy about the more traditional yellow) come separately in a little bowl and on another plate. I’d ordered a very similar Cuban-style combo a few days before at Sophie’s, a block from my new office. Their version was better than acceptable and also around $8, but it couldn't compare to the old school Domincan rendition. And I tend to think that the tastiness level is directly correlated to fat grams.

El Castillo de Jagua * 113 Rivington St., New York, NY

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