Modern Latin cuisine (grilled Caribbean rum-and-sugarcane-glazed lamb chops; Andalusia-style whole-wheat angel hair with seafood; and fire-roasted jumbo shrimp with forbidden black rice) is served at this restaurant from Pedro Munoz and Vivian Torres, owners of Luz in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Fun cocktail offerings include the baron rojo with black currant, rum, pisco, and white cranberry and the luz colada with passionfruit, coconut milk, and rum. Open every day for dinner; lunch Mon to Fri; brunch on Sun.
For many new restaurants, imposing their design is easy: they walk into a big, clean, anonymous box. But Cienega’s space on New Rochelle’s Main Street had some serious, inherent challenges. Awkward for a restaurant, its room is shallow and wide, oddly accessed via a mid-block recess, and nestled underneath a condominium block. Many restaurateurs would have passed on the space, but Cienega’s owners, Pedro Muñoz and Vivian Torres, are architects—they saw this deal-breaker as an opportunity to do something extraordinary. With its smart use of unifying lines, light, stone, fabric, and artwork, Cienega manages to triumph over architectural adversity—we only wish the pair would tackle every other ugly restaurant out there.
Best Chowder (2012)
“Saffron-scented silk” is one way to describe the luscious Peruvian shrimp chowder (or chupe) served at New Rochelle’s sleek Cienega. It’s a study in gold with saffron and aji amarillo, the yellow Peruvian pepper that gives this dish its subtle bite. Not enough? This soup’s crowning glory is a tiny, fried quail’s egg, making the whole look like a Caribbean sunset.