It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and we were excited to finally try Calle Ocho, an Upper West Side restaurant highlighting Latin fare from Cuba, Peru, Spain, and Costa Rica. We had to make reservations about a month in advance so we were more than thrilled when we walked through the doors to see glasses of sangria ready for us piled high on the bar.
Calle Ocho has a warm Latin feel with bright colors and a tropical vibe. As we sat at our table, we bopped about to the Spanish tunes playing throughout the restaurant. Our waiter came over and asked if we would like to start with a glass of sangria. “Of course!” we chirped and immediately ordered three of the eight flavors they offer.
Throughout the meal, we tried all the flavors and were impressed. Our favorites were the Samba sangria, Veev acai liqueur with brandy blueberries, and Punta Cana sangria, la típica Mamajuana with peach, pineapple, oranges. There is nothing quite like unlimited sangria during brunch!
Then there was the food, which was another story.
We ordered the Latin Benedict, a sweet and savory type of meal. It was made up of pork/duck sausage and arepas de choclo with poached eggs and chipotle Hollandaise. Although the duck provided extra flavor to the sausages, we thought the patties seemed pre-made and were not as fresh as they should be.
The Vaca Frita could have been better. This was made up of Cuban skirt steak with Latin pork fried rice, fried egg, and ripe avocado slices. This dish was average in flavor and didn’t quite pack the punch or the flavor that we had expected. The vaca needed to be more tender, have more texture differences to it and not be in disk form.
The Tortas de pollo were made up of marinated chicken breast, caramelized peppers, bacon, cabralese cheese, and chipotle mayo on a Cuban roll. The sandwich itself was a bit dry, however the chipotle mayo complimented it. The sandwich had good flavor, but we would have preferred a side other than fries.
The Maiz y Camarones, although a bit runny, had a nice subtle flavor profile. This dish came with sautéed shrimp, bacon, manchego cheese, grits, poached eggs, and savory Chipotle Hollandaise sauce.
The Bitches say: C. The food was not impressive, but the sangria was delicious. If you’re looking for a cheap unlimited boozy brunch spot then this is the place for you.
Calle Ocho at The Excelsior Hotel
45 W 81st St
New York, NY 10024
(Upper West Side)
Calle Ocho serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3 p.m.
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