At Cienfuegos, the new rum emporium in the East Village, the food is somewhat less impressive than the cocktails and the atmosphere. What a room! It’s a turquoise-and-pink fantasia of Sinatra-era Havana crossed with Alice in Wonderland. The servers are dressed up in colorful aprons like ’50s housewives, Betty Draper in a better mood. The cocktails are made with rum. Though some of the plates are dull beyond words (limp vegetable empanadas), other offerings are quite good and ably fill a stomach sloshing with punch.
One such dish is the costillas ($15), or pork ribs, supposedly glazed with habanero and guava. (The sauce is pleasantly sweet-salty but lacks that chile’s burn.) Those ribs are substantial and extremely tender, nearly meat pudding. The tostones — plantains that have been fried, squashed flat, and fried again — are wonderfully crisp and greaseless. Use the salty, starchy disks to wipe up any remaining sauce and pork drippings.
Drunken shrimp are also competently done, fat crustaceans in a cilantro-flecked sauce that’s tart and zippy with rum and a huge quantity of garlic. Sweet plantain mash mellows the dish out.
443 East 6th Street
Enter through the Carteles sandwich shop
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 14, 2010