By Chef Gabriela Ackerman
My family and I visited Pikote-o, a Latino-owned establishment that pays homage to the diverse flavors of Latin America with a twist and being latina myself I couldn’t hold my excitement: Strap on your seatbelts, because this is going to be one hell of a flavorful ride.
First, we were presented with a trio of Arepas like no other. But these were not your average empanadas, my friends. No, these were crafted with the magic touch of plantains and provolone cheese. Between each crispy bite, the sweetness of the plantain danced harmoniously with the velvety richness of the cheese, it became my 2yr olds favorite since he kept asking for more!
The flavors transported me back to the streets of Venezuela, where arepas are a way of life.
Moving on, we ventured into uncharted waters with a tuna tartare that fused the best of Asia and the Caribbean. This dish was a testament to the global nature of cuisine, where boundaries are meant to be broken. Fresh, succulent tuna mingled with the sweetness of mango, while sesame and soy added an exotic touch. Each bite was a harmonious symphony of flavors, a crescendo that left me yearning for more. Now to my Peruvian ceviche purists, I promise it’s worth it.
We were then presented with a grilled octopus dish with a perfectly charred tentacle, adorned with a drizzle of lime, chimichurri oil, and a sprinkling of paprika. The octopus was tender, a testament to the skill and expertise of the chef. With each bite, the citrusy tang of lime melded with the herbaceous notes of chimichurri, while the paprika added a smoky depth. It was a plate that embodied the sea, the sun, and the Latin American passion for bold flavors. This was octopus elevated to new heights, an artful creation that tantalized the senses.
Allow me to introduce you to a dish that will surely make your taste buds dance with joy: pork belly with chipotle BBQ and cilantro cream.
A thick slab of pork belly, perfectly caramelized and glistening with a chipotle-infused barbecue glaze and a cilantro cream; all I was missing was a warm tortilla.
The smoky, spicy notes of the chipotle BBQ sauce blend harmoniously with the richness of the pork belly. Each bite is a delightful balance of savory and tangy, with a hint of heat that lingers on the palate.
Now, my fellow food enthusiasts, let’s talk sandwiches. The Lechón sandwich, oh, what a beauty! Succulent shreds of pork nestled between layers of Swiss cheese, a match made in culinary heaven. The tender meat boasted a smoky flavor that paired perfectly with the melted cheese. It was a sandwich that whispered tales of comfort food. This was not just a sandwich; it was a love letter to Cuban cuisine, an homage to the owners roots.
And let us not forget the brisket sandwich, a true marvel of indulgence. Coffee-rubbed, tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket cooked for over 24hrs paired with a refreshing slaw, a combination that brought together richness and freshness in perfect harmony. Each bite was a celebration of textures and flavors, a masterpiece that showcased the chef’s expertise and creativity.
Lastly, we indulged in a dessert that encapsulated the essence of each Latin American home —the 4 leches cake. Moist, decadent, and soaked in a mixture of four different types of milk, this dessert was a symphony of creamy indulgence. Each spoonful carried the nostalgia of my grandmother’s cooking, which I’m sure my Latin American friends will agree. This dessert is evoking memories of bustling mercado stalls and abuelas in their kitchens, laboring over cherished family recipes. The 4-leches cake was a divine finale to our feast.
In this hidden gem of a restaurant, I found more than just exquisite dishes. I discovered a place where Latin American cuisine is celebrated with reverence and innovation, where traditional flavors are honored while being elevated to new heights. And the taste? Ah, the taste was an explosion of familiar yet tantalizingly reinvented flavors, a symphony of spices and ingredients that transported me back home.
Pikote-o reminded me of the incredible diversity and vibrancy that Latin American food brings to the global culinary landscape.
To the owners and chefs behind this establishment, I raise my glass in salute. In this hidden gem, you will find a culinary experience that pays homage to the rich tapestry of Latin American cuisine while adding a twist that will keep you coming back for more.