By Vin Sparks
It was the Friday of La Fete and I was working with our photojournalist on Willy Street. We had a little time before we had to make our way over to Central Park, so I thought we could check out Fuegos for lunch and have some tapas. Jimmy’s response upon hearing the suggestion? “What’s a tapas?”, he asked. “OMG!” <—— (For the millennials among us.) “Jimmy, you’ve never had tapas?” I replied, “Let’s go!”
Fuegos – Steak * Tapas * Vegan is the new restaurant that opened recently in a brand-new buildout of the first floor of the new Willy Street Central Apartments on the corner of Williamson and Patterson. They weren’t real busy, I’m guessing that the festival had a lot to do with that so we were seated immediately and attended to right away by Paige, our server.
I was excited to be there as I had watched the building go up and the restaurant built out. I am also a big fan of tapas, small plate offerings that serve as an appetizer here in the states, but in Spain, have evolved into an entire, sophisticated cuisine. (Okay, I got that from Wikipedia.)
Paige, discovering that this was our first time at the eatery, took special care to go over the menu with us:
Tapas – Para Picar (small bites) is the first section with 14 menu items to offer featuring a diverse sampling of Spanish small plates of scallops or maybe lamb meatballs if you prefer. Or you can order a dish featuring octopus or oysters on the half, or ceviche. All served with a Spanish flair.
A variety of salads and a seafood bisque was on the menu today, all made with locally sourced produce.
Fuegos does have the word Steak in its name and the lunch menu today featured five different cuts of meat: lamb chops, a bone-in rib eye, pork chops, a strip steak and of course, a filet.
Both my lunch guest and I noticed the assortment of Tacos in the La Plancha section right away. Three tacos or a quesadilla with a choice of filling served with ranchero cheese and chips seemed to be the perfect lunch on that day.
The choices of meat include, barbacoa (shredded beef), al pastor (spicy pork), lengua (beef tongue), tequila pollo (you know the first word, we’re talkin’ drunken chicken breast), steak and the Del Mar is shrimp, scallops and fish.
Let me tell you – the Del Mar had a savory flavor centered around the sautéed seafood coupled with the sweetness of a mango relish that worked very well together. The barbacoa had a deep savory flavor that only a slow cooked roast of beef can deliver and the steak taco was quick seared, tender chunks of steak that had a subtle taste of an open flame. All three tacos were dressed well for the occasion with a garnishment that accentuated the filling that it accompanied.
We did not forget to try a small plate and for my part, the Chorizo de Lagarto stole the show.
Paige said that it was one of, if not the most ordered of the tapas on the menu. The alligator chorizo sausage, served with cumin sauce and pickled red onions made for such an astounding appetizer that I can’t wait to get back again. It was savory yet had a nutty, spicy flavor when dragged through the cumin sauce drizzle. Couple that with the sweet tartness of the pickled red onion and it made me want to slowly savor every bite. It was an excellent eating experience.
To top it all off, a table-side visit from Oscar Villarreal, the head chef and owner of the establishment, was a great touch. Oscar is a delightful gentleman that was only too happy to engage us socially and professionally to make sure we enjoyed every aspect of our lunch.
Menu pricing: Mid-range or economical when compared to other restaurants of this caliber.