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Old 10-12-2005, 03:16 PM
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Dani-X Dani-X is offline
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Restaurant Review - Azucar

While I'm not a professional reviewer, I can't help sharing some of my favorite restaurants with my local community. Here's a quick read about a recent night at Azucar Cuban Cuisine. Enjoy!

The lights are low, the atmosphere is warm, Cuban memorabilia adorns the walls and the music and crowd are lively. Upon entering the restaurant we were politely greeted by the ever-charming hostesses, Norma. It had been a few months since we had last dined here and we were surprised to see that the main floor of the restaurant was now smoke-free! Perhaps being named AOL City’s Best Ethnic Eats for 2005 had something to do with that! But in keeping with their traditions of “smokers always welcome,” Azucar has opened the smoking lounge on the second floor for dinner.

While going over the menu, our fantastic and knowledgeable waitress came by to tell us about the evening’s specials and uncork the wine we had brought into the restaurant… yes, Azucar is BYO. We started our meal off with a simple dish of beef empanadas. The picadillo-like filling was piping hot with perfectly seasoned ground beef with raisins and green olives. The flaky crusts were golden brown and crispy enough to hold their contents but savory enough to melt in the mouth. They were served with a mojo dipping sauce that was a big hit with the garlic lovers and had just the right amount of citrus zing.

There were four of us dining that evening and we each opted for something different. One of us ordered the breaded pounded steak. This huge portion of meat came to us delicately seasoned and fried to perfection atop a cutting board – I did say huge, didn’t I? With garnishes of fresh lime wedges and raw onion slices, and a side of the best white rice we’ve ever had, it was time to enjoy. Even though steak knives were provided, we could have used a butter knife this meat was so tender.

The other beef dish we ordered was the Vaca Frita (literally translated to Fried Cow), it’s a typical Cuban dish that wasn’t on the menu but the chef offered to prepare it for us when we asked. The Vaca Frita arrived with a side of Moros y Christianos (moro), the staple that translates to the “Moors and Christians” – or black beans and rice. The meat was served seasoned and shredded, then crisped in a pan to perfection with some onions. A bite of this gently salted meat with the maduros (fried sweet plantains) was heaven on fork. The sweet and salty contrast is truly divine. We ordered two side of maduros and they came to the table in half-shells the size of a small coconuts. They are exquisitely caramelized to perfection with soft insides and a crispy outside. Bar none, these are the best maduros I have ever had.

While Cubans are famous for their meat dishes, we also tried two lovely seafood entrees. The first was the Enchilado de Cangrejo, a spicy crab Creole “stew.” The sweet and spicy dish was dotted heavily with huge bites of tender, sweet crab. The white rice presented in the shape of an upside down bowl, made the perfect setting for the sauce and held the flavors together nicely. The other seafood dish we ordered was the garlic shrimp. Large succulent shrimp were cooked in olive oil and garlic and served with a side of moro rice. These were cooked perfectly and maintained their firm texture. As the seafood dishes tend to be a bit smaller than the meat entrees but still plentiful. We also ordered a side of Cuban fries which were perfect for dipping into the creole sauce.

While we did not have the fish special on this visit, I don’t think I can write about a meal at Azucar without mentioning the crowning glory, the Whole Red Snapper. The entire fish is lightly floured and seasoned, then flash fried to delicate perfection. When presented to the diner, it is served on a large plate – standing up as if it were swimming. A simple squeeze of lime is all you need… it’s not necessary but personally, I enjoy the citrus contrast. The white meat of the fish is flaky, moist, and ample. I have ordered this in other restaurants and none have lived up to Azucar’s. By all means, the pinnacle of red snapper perfection!

As we lingered over our second bottle of wine, our waitress presented us with dessert and coffee menus. Three of us opted for the café cubano (espresso) and one for the Mango juice. The mango juice was delicious - kept chilled by frozen chunks of mango… a healthy dessert option! While we were full from our dinner we couldn’t resist a little more indulgence and ordered a dessert for the table. We decided on the Natilla, a creamy custard dessert, laced with a drop of cinnamon, served in a tall sundae glass with a sponge like cookie on the bottom, and a crème-brulee like top. It was a good thing we decided to share this one as the custard is extremely rich!

All in all, we were very satisfied with our meal and felt it was a great value at $125 before gratuity. Azucar has always been a favorite of mine and this visit just supports that!

According to the Azucar website, www.azucarcubancuisine.com, chef Nick Vazquez says “My cuisine is home cooked comfort food. No bells or whistles, just good fill your tummy mom’s cooking….and we all love mom’s cooking.” He must be right because he’s opening a second location soon!

Azucar is located at 10 Dempsey Avenue in Edgewater, NJ. Reservations for parties for 3 or more can be made by calling 201-886-0747.
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Old 10-01-2006, 11:55 PM
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Jeremy Rossi Jeremy Rossi is offline
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Talking Re: Restaurant Review - Azucar

See this thread for were to go now.
The above are my ideas.... I think... well maybe. Who am I?
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