Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Agozar: Worth a Trip Downtown

The Superbowl has always been my favorite holiday. Although nominally about football, it is really an excuse to have parties and perhaps gamble a bit. I don't gamble, but I do like parties. And with its long commercial breaks, inane halftime show, and often insipid game, the Event itself provides a perfect background buzz that beats any iPod mix I could come up with. The lovely wife and I decided on a Cuban theme this year, in line with the Superbowl's being in Miami. After that, it was time to find a caterer!

There are several Cuban restaurants on the Upper West Side, including Cafe Con Leche and Caridad 78. While I like both of them well enough there was no way I could use either of them for a party. Cafe Con Leche has slow and unreliable service, even in the restaurant. I'm not even going to start in on trying to get take out from them. And Caridad, while often at your door before you can hit the "end" button on your phone, is more "Chinese" than "Cuban," and, to be honest, is something I eat because its cheap and fast rather than actually good. So off to explore we went.

We found Agozar through Sidewalk.Com, which has many more listings than Zagat I often find to be an excellent way to research a restaurant or grocery. After this, we went to the Website, and eventually to the restaurant itself. Agozar is a pretty space divided into two rooms. There is a pleasant bar area in the front, and tables in the back. The food is traditionally Cuban, prepared in an upscale way. Cuban Sandwiches are cut into smaller pieces and served as an appetizer, Chicharrones that the menu accurately describes as "chicken lollypops", Ropa Vieja and a variety of excellent shrimp dishes. For carb lovers, the plantain chips may have been the best I have ever eaten, and yuca fries were crisp and tasty. The sauces were excellent. Dessert was OK, but not a reason to go. The cafe con leche' alone is enough after such a large dinner, anyway. Although the place has been around for more than four years, for those of us who don't live downtown, its worth "rediscovering."

Agozar does an excellent job of catering. It delivery staff was prompt and friendly. Although we over-ordered, it was only because I liked so many dishes and their prices were so reasonable that I thought I was going to get less food than we actually got! The restaurant staff told us which of their dishes would survive catering and which wouldn't.

As a restaurant for for a fiesta in your house, you shouldn't miss Agozar.

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