It's A Dominican Thing
144 West 19th St (6th & 7th Aves)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 924-3344
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Entree Price: $15-20
While most New Yorkers are familiar with the ethnic cuisines of countries as far away as Korea and Australia, the food of the nearby Dominican Republic remains a mystery to most everyone who lives south of 168th Street. But you don’t need to head that far uptown to be a connoisseur, thanks to It’s A Dominican Thing, a charming pocket-sized bistro that opened three years ago on West 19th Street and is still something of a secret. Of course, you might not become a complete expert on just one visit – especially since owner Daija Arias and co-chefs Eva and Ana Martinez are so committed to the freshness of their food, they may be out of a couple of dishes when you arrive. (Which means that I have to return to sample the yummy-sounding stuffed cabbage and the famed Dominican cake.) But you’re likely to encounter some new taste sensations, no matter what you order. Still, you can get a pretty good head-start on the country’s bounty by sharing “Un Chin de Todo” – which means a little bit of everything, and includes small portions of all eight of the house’s appetizers. I suspect each person might have their favorites: my votes would go to slightly sweet-sauced chicken wings to the surprisingly tasty cod fritters and the tamale-like pastelas (a plantain-and-root puree stuffed with pork); while others might prefer the Lebanese-like kipes of ground beef and wheat (which were a bit dry for my taste). Those diners who insist on something lighter can opt for one of the house’s salads, including a slaw of cabbage topped with a generous portion of shrimp. Forced to forego the stuffed cabbage, my dining partner and I went in different directions. She chose the delicious, delicate grouper which arrives in a pot of zesty coconut sauce, while I opted for the much heartier (and far less healthy) “Chicarron de Pollo” – aka chunks of fried (but not breaded) chicken that were quite satisfying. Both dishes arrived with a large mound of yellow rice with black beans intermingled. While I might have liked to have sampled the Dominican Cake – which I’ve been told resembles a traditional birthday cake – there were no regrets or complaints after one bite of the excellent warm bread pudding. And even if you’re not a fan of traditional flan, you might be more pleased with this version, which is more custardy than you might expect, and served in a pie-like slice. The restaurant also serves very reasonable lunch and weekend brunch prix fixes, if you can’t make it for dinner. That’s not just a Domincan thing, it’s a good thing.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton