Yankees’ Chef Returns to Sofrito, Bringing Latin Sushi to Westchester

Plus Hudson Hop & Harvest and Peruvian Hangover Cure at Quenas



“Since when does sushi have meat?” someone at our table asked. Since Latin sushi, that's when. Ricardo Cardona, chef for the New York Yankees and visiting teams (not to mention caterer for Jennifer Lopez and Sonia Sotomayor), has returned to Sofrito to punch up the menu at this vibrant Puerto Rican spot with cooked sushi rolls, tapas, ceviches, light dishes, and brunch. And the new cocktail list has us plotting future visits. 

The Latin sushi—think ribs, chicken, shrimp—had a line going around the room at Yankee Stadium’s Legends Suite, the jaw-droppingly expensive VIP club behind home plate, and it's easy to see why, with their pleasing balance of ingredients and a dipping sauce so good you’ll be saving it for other stuff. Choose from nine rolls made with white rice and nori, including my favorites: the Westchester (cooked salmon, sweet plantain, jalapeño, and local white farmer cheese, wrapped with avocado) and the Spanish (chicken tempura, chorizo, farmer cheese, and avocado, overlaid with sweet plantain). They come with a wonderful sofrito-laden mayonnaise (a riff on Japanese spicy mayo), plus a soy-based sauce, ginger, and slightly unexpected dragon chopsticks. 

Of the tapas we tried, the biggest crowd-pleaser was sweet plantain wrapped in bacon, a refreshing twist on the ubiquitous bacon-wrapped dates. Empanadas included a vegetarian variety available (and quite good) baked. If you’re craving the classics, the place is known for its ropa vieja (shredded beef stew), pernil (roast pork shoulder), mofongo (mashed green plantains), and paella; of the recently added ceviches, octopus is the best. Entrées hit a home run with sauce: the wild mushroom chimichurri on the steak drew raves (although we found the side of yucca a bit dry); Latin bouillabaisse with brandy, saffron essence, and lobster sofrito broth was equaled by pan-roasted red snapper in enchilado sauce (similar to Creole sauce) with coconut rice. The new Light Fare for lunch includes sandwiches that can be served as a jibarito (with fried plantains instead of bread); brunch features items such as piña colada French toast and Borinquen frittata. The market salad, with quinoa, grilled seasonal vegetables, avocado, black beans, and corn salsa, is a thing of beauty. Our desserts, including a marvelous tres leches cake resting in a pool of spiced milk and cream, had in common a welcome light touch with sugar.

The festive new cuisine calls for new cocktails, and the revamped list brings in homemade syrups, European spirits, bitters, and some unusual ingredients. Rachel’s Caipirinha is enhanced with the slightly nutty flavor of cashew nectar; the Sofrito mojito, which I loved, is flavored with your choice of passionfruit, mango, pineapple, or coconut and garnished with a sugarcane swizzle stick. Macho men got past the name to order multiple rounds of Angel Fizz, a tall white rum and gin concoction, and one brave soul tried Caliente, whose chipotle powder provoked a reaction—wait for it—that I believe became a Vine. The Titan was also invited back (Jack Daniels, crème de cassis, pineapple and lemon juice, infused syrup, Peychaud’s bitters).

Yes, the drinks were good. And if the sun had set by 10:00, we wouldn’t have known, because backlit plantation shutters made it look like 5 pm. Well-dressed people started filing in through the back door, and thumping music emanating from the front prompted a little scouting expedition. When we heard that women in feathered headdresses were dancing, we got up one by one to take a peek. For now, this remains a mystery—just another wild night in White Plains.

HotDate

Hudson Hop and Harvest
October 5, 2 to 9 pm
Free admission; pay as you go for food and beverages

Of the many festivals going on now, this sounds like one of the cooler ones: enjoy Peekskill’s spectacular Hudson Highlands views and the cuisine and beer of our northern neighbors while chilling out to serious indie bands. Restaurants on hand include Birdsall House, The Cookery, Ladle of Love, Polpettina, and Village Dog, as well as interesting trucks and stands: Aurora's Gypsy Cafe (international gypsy food!), Waffle Cabin (more commonly found on ski slopes), and Pizza Via (I've tried them, they're good). And craft beer lovers, Peekskill Brewery makes signature suds for this event, where you'll also find not only Captain Lawrence and Bronx Brewery but farther-flung folks such as Ommegang, Newburgh, Keegan, Victory, and Blue Point. There's a farmers' market from 2 to 6 pm, featuring Hemlock Hill Farm, Glynwood Farm, and, from Dutchess County, The Hop (artisanal tasting room) and Drink More Good (sodas, bitters, syrups). Live music rocks out from two stages—you might have heard this tune from Saints of Valory. The fest will take place at the Riverfront Green Park, around the corner from the Metro-North station.

HotPlate

Leche de Tigre at Quenas

Half ceviche, half power tonic, this legendary hangover cure and aphrodisiac (“Peruvian Viagra”) is almost a meal, as well as a swift kick in the pants. Its name means “tiger’s milk,” the milk being leftover ceviche marinade. At Quenas in Harrison, well worth a visit, this elixir consists of lemon juice, ginger, garlic, rocoto and Ají peppers, and a few secret spices. Drink up, and dig into the delicious ceviche in your glass—shrimp, octopus, calamari, flounder, an iridescent Peruvian mussel—and the toasted chulpe corn, boiled corn, and greens; you can almost feel the Popeye effect kick in. For an accompaniment, try the tamal Criollo (chicken and olive tamale) or papa a la Huancaína (boiled potatoes in spicy cheese sauce). And tell us how you feel afterward.

 

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