Pescado Encendido ($15.95)
We loved the fish itself, a superbly crunchy potato crust shielding firm, flaky tilapia, and the briny, salty olive- and caper-studded tomato sauce; the fufu-plantain mash is buttery and sweet enough to appear on the dessert menu. Plantains can be remarkably sweet, of course, but it's expected when they're intact on other plates, rather than resting under the fish here. While we didn't mind, some might the sweetness off-putting.
At that great consistency where it's creamy and scoopable without losing all texture. It's well-salted and limed, with a trio of chips; the tortilla best for scooping, the shatter-crisp boniato our favorite for snacking.
Empanada, Croquetas de Queso ($2.25 each)
All of the snacks were hot, crisp, and straightforwardly satisfying: an empanada with a creamy, well-seasoned corn interior and pastry that wasn't stiff in the slightest; a super-crunchy, if not intensely flavorful rellena; fried cheese balls that are lighter than one would expect, making them all the easier to pop back.
Mac & Chicharrón ($8.95)
The macaroni and cheese itself is fine—a little wet to our taste. As a mac-and-cheese topping, chicharrón is kind of inspired--a bit of crunch on top, whether it’s breadcrumbs or toasted-over cheese or, what the hell, pork skin, is a very good thing. Fatty pork belly suspended in a sea of fatty sauce may approach overkill, though, even for us; the dish is so rich I had trouble with more than a few bites. Yet, like so many of the dishes here, I can imagine it getting inhaled late at night.
Huevos Rancheros ($7.95)
Moros (Cuban-style rice and black beans) are topped with a crisp corn tortilla and a tomatillo salsa with a decent level of heat, tamed by the amount of eggs and starch on the plate. We enjoyed the interplay of textures here; huevos rancheros often pile soft ingredients on more soft ingredients, but the crunch of the tortilla and the dry but well-seasoned rice and beans stood out nicely from the runny egg.
Ropa Vieja ($15.95)
While so many versions of ropa vieja are heavily sauced and so soft they hardly need to be chewed, this version is meaty and crisp-edged and full-flavored. After the meat is cooked initially and shredded, Medina sauteés it with onions, poblanos, and chile de árbol for a complex spice and char on the edges.
Coconut Cake ($6.50)
A buttery, not-too-light sponge cake that's layered with coconut buttercream and moistened with condensed milk and coconut water so that it's somewhere in consistency between a standard layer cake and a tres leches; though it's more than enjoyable as a dessert, we preferred the two other cakes.
Carrot Cake with Manchego ($6.50)
The cake itself is superbly moist, tender-crumbed, and not too sweet; the cream cheese-sour cream frosting, tangy and smooth; but the sprinkle of Manchego cheese, adding just a little sheep-y funk, takes the cake from a well-done classic to a dessert worth getting excited about.
Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Buttercream ($6.50, +$2 a la mode))
The little balls of chocolate crunch atop this cake are the lightest thing on there; it's a dense, rich cake with a thick frosting that tastes more of buttercream than dulce de leche. Indulgent and satisfying, but lacking the real dulce de leche hit we wanted.