Yerba Buena means mint in most Spanish speaking countries and it refers to a different species of mint depending on where you are. In New York, Yerba Buena One Perry Street, New York, NY 10014 is the hip Latin restaurant, with two locations. I met Bianca at the newer West Village spot, where you have the typical New York scene. A slightly funky dressed hostess greets, almost no lighting (hence my terrible pictures) making bartenders in all black invisible, and the ambient mix of rapid conversations with latin funk techno.

The food and drink, with a Peruvian bent, gets you to raise an eyebrow. Our jolly waiter, so excited to recommend, made great choices of a pisco sour and a blackberry cocktail (sorry, don’t remember the name) for us. I have a new found respect for this grape liquor lightened with foamy egg whites. I think of it as a milder, smoother, and more refreshing alternative to margaritas. The controlled sweetness and tartness of the blackberry cocktail won over Bianca and she had two.

Pisco Sour

When I eat with Bianca, we almost always order more appetizers and go light on entrees so that we can try more. The Manchego Croquetes are better when they’re hot, but forgettable.

Croquetes de Queijo

The Rib Eye Ceviche was a refreshing dish with rocoto, cilantro, sea urchin, and Peruvian corn, but the sea urchin was lost in it and the Peruvian corn, a bit too large and starchy, feeling separate from the rest of flavors that melded together. Nothing about it tasted bad though, just not quite cohesive.

Rib Eye Ceviche

The Peruvian corn is also used, almost like a salad, with the Empanadas. Here, I loved the large starchy kernels, really more like beans than corn (they’re the size of fava beans). The thin and crisp fried dough is packed with spinach giving each bite a very full mouth of greens flavored with Manchego.

Spinach and Manchego Empanadas

By the time we were done with appetizers, the little sunlight coming through the window was gone. The Lechon, a generous pile of shredded suckling pig was tender and juicy but I could barely see it. I loved the one piece of crackling skin I got but I couldn’t decided if I liked the pastiness of the yucca puree covering every piece of meat. It adds moisture but doesn’t really add flavor.

The Watermelon Fries were surprisingly good. I would never have imagined panko coating and deep-frying watermelon but the light sweetness and frail structure actually work. The main taste and texture is the fried panko, with just a hint of watermelon that disappears into the crunchy munchy snack.

For dessert, we finished our cortadito (macchiato) and Yerba Mate before the dulce de leche filled crepe arrived. I prefer to have it together but it was throat cloggingly sweet and too thick anyway. We didn’t end up finishing it. Overall, my impression is that you come here for drinks and a good time, not necessarily the food, which is more interesting in a theme park kind of way. For about $70 per person (with drinks), it’s worth treating your curiosity.

posted by jessica at 03:57 PM Filed under Latin, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.