New Food Now: Sofrito in Salcedo, An Authentic Puerto Rican CantinaJuly 16, 2014
If you haven’t seen that much talked about foodie movie Chef yet, you should, especially if you plan on making a trip to new restaurant Sofrito. Without spoiling anything, the movie’s culinary premise is based on Latin soul food, which is exactly what Sofrito offers. We went there a few days after seeing the film, with our cravings for roast pork, complex spices and all things Latin still unsatisfied—really, how many authentic Latin American restaurants do we have in the metro?
Open for less than 5 months, Sofrito is tucked in one of the many winding back alleys of Salcedo Village, underneath a barberdashery, and often obscured by a parked car. Finding it may be a little difficult, but it is a gem that can transport you to a side street in San Juan. It’s incredibly small, less than 100 square meters of dining space, with a counter and blackboard menu of specials.
The mofongo is the flagship dish of Sofrito, it was delicious, and excitingly different.
The mofongo was the first I’ve seen here so far, and as the flagship dish of Sofrito, it was delicious, and excitingly different. Made of fried green plantains, mashed together with bits of crispy pork then formed into a ball, it is a mix of salty, sour and sweet all at once, with a pungent punch of garlic. Garlic features a lot in Sofrito’s concise menu, punctuating other dishes which taste like home. There is a pastelon, with layers of sweet saba alternating with mince, which seems like a arroz ala cubana lasagna-style. The daily specials on the blackboard included a pernil asado- which was a little on the dry side when we had it, which was a shame because it was marinated well- and various desserts that Puerto Rico is known for, from tres leches to a coconut cake. Sofrito even serves up a Cubano, that famed sandwich loaded with pork, ham, cheese and a tart pickle, but it runs out early in the day.
The meals are awesome when on point, but can be inconsistent, with some dishes coming out a little dry. However, when you go on a great day, this little cantina will surprise you.
Sofrito is still finding its feet, and have a lot of hiccups that comes with a soft opening. The service is very rudimentary, and the staff seem a little frazzled. The exhaust is horrible, especially for such a small space, so finishing your meal without red eyes seems impossible. The meals are awesome when on point, but can be inconsistent, with some dishes coming out a little dry. However, when you go on a great day, this little cantina will surprise you. The flavors are undeniably authentic, and the experience a good one, especially if you find the affable couple who own the place behind the counter. Wait a little while for Sofrito to get up on both feet—I’ll see you there with a Cubano in my hand.