By Sara Liss
The goods: The Gables is now home to lively Latin supper club Mamajuana Cafe, a sexy sibling to the original restaurant, located in New York's Washington Heights. Inspired by the culture of the Taino Indian and Old World Spanish cuisine, the restaurant is a modern take on Latin food and music, where large groups of friends and couples on dates sip mojitos to a soundtrack that slips between merengue, flamenco and Spanish pop. Portions are large, the crowd is boisterous and the décor is sexy. Tuesdays the atmosphere heats up with live flamenco and half off pitchers of sangria. Saturday is date night where $75 gets you a three-course menu for two along with a bottle of wine from 5:30-7:30pm.
Ambiance: Located in the old Chispa space, this cavernous restaurant is dimly lit with shades of red and gold while Mexican tile floors and dark woodwork give it a hacienda vibe. The large bar at the entrance can get busy on nights when there's live music while the long high-top tables in the dining room are perfect for large groups who are there both for the food and the hopping social scene.
The grub: Dominican and Latin tapas and larger plates. The menu works equally well for a night out for cocktails and light bites as it does a formal three-course dinner. Prices are reasonable with most tapas priced $6-$12, mains $18-$24 and sides like yucca fries and tostones $4. Start off with a variety of small plates like grilled marinated octopus, sweet plantains stuffed with cod and sweet corncakes with lobster salad. The house “cocas” are Spanish thin crust pizzas and come topped with shrimp garlic and piquillo peppers or Serrano ham and manchego cheese. Mains are generously-sized like the grilled salmon over mashed potatoes in a saffron lobster sauce or the chicken breast stuffed with sweet plantains and chorizo in a sofrito sauce.
The namesake Latin American elixir – a potion of wine, honey, herbs, and rum – is said to be an aphrodisiac, ask for a taste before you dive in to the lengthy cocktail list. Make sure to try the house mojito made with tamarind puree or go for a pitcher of sangria – red or white – at just $25.
Verdict: The Dominican tapas, live music and bustling bar scene make for a clamorous, Latin-tinged night out.
Mamajuana Cafe, 225 Altara Ave, 305-443-0505. Monday thru Friday from 11:30AM-3:30PM, dinner Monday thru Thursday from 5:30PM-10:30PM and Friday thru Saturday from 5:30PM-12:00AM.
Photo: Alvaro Santistevan.