A Detour on the Pan-American Highway: Oficina Latina's Delivery Paella Reviewed
In this series, Seamless Warrior John Luong reviews meals ordered from the Internet.
As usual, my Sunday routine consisted of two primary objectives: allay the anxiety associated with the week ahead and find caloric input despite having a refrigerator bereft of contents. The bonus objective of the week was to watch the U.S. men's soccer team play in the 2013 Gold Cup Final against Panama.
For the past three weeks, the Gold Cup had brought together a dozen predominantly North and Central American teams and their fans at well-attended matches across the United States. It only seemed appropriate that I should indulge in sustenance inspired by the represented nations by ordering from Oficina Latina, a Nolita establishment whose menu is rooted in the Pan-American Highway, the road network that connects a majority of the landlocked participant countries.
Apparently, the Pan-American Highway Oficina Latina follows veers into Spain, and so did my lunch. I placed an order for the Paella Classica brunch edition (shellfish, chorizo, chicken, peppers, and green peas), an order of octopus tostadas (celery, potatoes, and red onions) and a fresh squeezed "grape juice." While I am no grape juice aficionado, it seemed like an interesting item not often seen on a delivery menu.
My order arrived in just over 35 minutes. The first surprise was that the contents had not shifted during travel and that the meal looked impeccable. The second surprise was that the "grape juice" was actually grapefruit juice. Fans of comedian Aziz Ansari would note that rapper-cum-entertainer 50 Cent has purportedly made a similar mistake. It happens to the best of us.
The tostada was comprised of a topping that included a mixture of well-cooked potatoes, onions, and octopus atop a warm, crisp tortilla. The potatoes were soft and marginally out-represented the octopus from a volumetric perspective. The onions and a light citrus flavor helped round out the flavors on the palate.
The paella featured plump grains of yellow rice with a smattering of red and yellow peppers, green peas, and carrots. Numerous proteins were represented in the mixture: the chicken was of the succulent dark meat variety; the chorizo was piquant without overpowering the dish, and thin strips of calamari provided texture. The clams and mussels each were lightly cooked and preserved their distinct flavors. Unfortunately, though, there were several aspects of the dish that would have benefited from further attention. The scallops were overcooked and, therefore, bland and stiff, which is unsurprising given their minuscule size. A clump of parsley was added to the top as an afterthought and obligates the diner to distribute it.
The Morning After: The topping for the tostada held up nicely as the octopus managed to maintain a pleasant texture, though, as expected, the same could not be said for the tortilla. The flavors of the paella further integrated resulting in a few indulgent bites.
Repeatability: While paella via delivery is a luxury, it is perhaps something that is better experienced in a sit-down dining scenario, particularly if one enjoys socarrat, the dish's caramelized crust. The tostadas were generally executed better and would be the more advisable recommendation.
Establishment: Oficina Latina, 24 Prince Street, 646-381-2555
Hours/Limitations: $10 delivery minimum
Delivery Estimate: 30-45 minutes
Delivery Time: 35:04 minutes
Distance: 0.1 miles; 4 minutes
Ordered at 2:54 p.m., showers.