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Pineapple Chicken from El Paraiso (149 West 14th Street, 212-675-7698)
El Paraiso reps a type of Chinese eatery which used to be common in Chelsea — Cantonese-Cuban restaurants.
As detailed by Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, these establishments are disappearing, and it looked like the closure of La Nueva Rampa in this space would deal a death blow to this setup.
Not so: El Paraiso doesn’t seem all that different from its predecessor.
We picked the pineapple chicken, seeing as how that seemed like the closest thing to a hybrid of both culinary styles.
(Typically, at this type of establishment, most of the dishes are either distinctly Cuban or distinctly Chinese — so it’s not like Peruvian Chifa, which is a straight up intersection of the two. Cultural crossings take place in minute details of the service more so than the plates: for example, El Paraiso serves a pre-meal bread course rather than fried noodles. Fortune cookies did not come with the meal. Chopsticks are not set out, etc.)
The $7.25 dish that came out tasted a lot like a stir-fried version of “Hawaiian” chicken — poultry marinaded in teriyaki sauce and baked with canned pineapple rings.
While this concept isn’t the most creative, the meat came out moist and tender and the broth was surprisingly bold. Unlike “lemon” chicken or vaguely fruity sweet and sours, this selection actually did feature fruit. Plentiful white onions, also, added a rich, earthy zest.
Def one of the better things we’ve eaten.
(H/T Voice alum @ldshockey. Thanks much, Lauren!)