Fork in the Road reviews Macondo

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Since I wrote about "real" Latin street food in Sunset Park last week, this week I thought it would be interesting to review Macondo, a new, upscale, pan-Latin street food spot on the LES.

Obviously, there's no comparison, and I'll always prefer the curbside taco trucks to a slick place like Macondo. But although Macondo stumbles in some places, there are some really great things to eat there: The mofongo, for one, is ridiculously tasty, garlicky and garnished with fat rods of fried pork belly. Polenta with chorizo and a fried egg is also spectacular.

The menu is divided into categories like tacos, empanadas, arepas, etc. While not everything is as fantastic as the mofongo, much of it is solid. And there is a novelty factor in seeing what an indoor, gussied-up restaurant can do with items like arepa—the corn cakes come with elaborate toppers like bacalao and a fried egg, or quail.

Strangely, Macondo is best when playing with rich flavors, and salsa is nowhere to be found. Too bad, because that's exactly what the dry shrimp tacos needed.

And then there are some small annoyances—in what seems to me a cynical move, the (delicious) cocktails are "tapas-style," meaning you'll be paying $7.50 for a tiny glass, about half of a regular cocktail. And the servers have obviously been instructed to give 10-minute speeches about the menu, which is full of things like tacos and empanadas and does not need explaining.

This is a fun place that shouldn't be taken too seriously—go with a group and share a bunch of things, and get whoever makes the most money pay for the drinks.

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