CALLE OCHO: UWS Nuevo Latino Cuisine

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Dear Food Diary:
To celebrate the opening of it’s new location, the folks at Calle Ocho invited us to a press dinner.
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Inside the Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side, we got a taste of their version of Nuevo Latino Cuisine.
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Starting the night with strong mojitos and sangrias is always a “muy bueno” idea in my book. I preferred the mojito. The sangria was a bit too sweet for me. But I hear from brunch, they offer different flavored sangrias, like lychee.
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Their Yuca Cheese Bread was hard to resist. Soft, puffy, chewy, sweet and savory. I could eat this alone and be muy happy.
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On the left, Marinated Aji Tuna Ceviche with ginger, cilantro and mustard vinaigrette. Nice balance of flavors and the tuna was really fresh. On the right, Cured Salmon Ceviche with aji amarillo, sour orange and pineapple. I’m not a big fan of the fruit/raw fish combo. Something was just off to me. If the fish is fresh and of quality, less is more.
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Bacon Wrapped Almond Stuffed Dates was one of my favorites of the night. I loved the bacon all caramelized with a plump date and crunchy almond. The slightly tart and crunchy bed of hearts of palms was a nice contrast. I was glad the cabrales cheese as on the side, not my favorite.
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Colombian Sweet Corn Arepa with Ropa Vieja was a mouthful to pronounce, but not more than that. Average at best, it really wasn’t memorable even with the cream and criolla salad. I’ve had better arepas elsewhere.
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Their Roasted Striped Bass, Serrano ham chick pea and Roasted Pepper Sauce vaguely reminded me of the smoked trout with jamon butteri had at Bar Basque, only that had yummy crispy skin and more pops of flavor. Calle Ocho’s bass was a bit dry and over cooked. I enjoyed the sides better than the fish itself.
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I was totally excited about the Cuban Style “steak frites” with traditional chimichurri, BUT one bite and I was totally put off. The steak was really tough and chewy (not in a good way), i wasn’t expecting kobe, but at least a better cut of meat. Since I grew up in Argentina, I know my chimichurri and this wasn’t it! Well, also there was so little of it, I was surprised it was even described on our menu. 
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Dulce de leche ice cream was spoon lickin’ good. Deep caramel flavors with creamy texture. I was happy with that alone, but then the Dark Chocolate Cake stood in the way of a good ending. The cake was dry, so I didn’t take a second bite.

Overall, Calle Ocho has a nice space, specially for large groups. Food was a hit or miss. Nothing really stood out for me, but since we got a $25 gift certificate, I’ll go back and try the brunch everyone was raving about. I had a fun time at dinner, catching up with blogger friends and meeting new ones. 
Chubby rating:chubby rating 2.5(close to 3)
45 W 81st 
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