Puerto Rican Pop-Up ‘Identity Crisis Dinner’ at Calyer


The amuse was a thin strip of fried plantain flavored with red-pepper aioli (or more properly, perhaps, allioli) and decorated with clover.

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Chefs Jose Ramirez-Ruiz (Chez Jose) and Gabriel Moya (Calyer) discovered that, though they were both born and bred in Puerto Rico, they’d never cooked Puerto Rican food in a restaurant setting. Last night at Calyer restaurant in a pop-up dinner called “Identity Crisis” with two seatings of 25 each, the pair sought to remedy that — and they partly succeeded. Here is a photo diary of that meal, which extended to 11 courses.

Looking something like a scorpion, the second course was a salt-cod fritter with a salt-cod whipped topping. Scrumptious.

Probably the best dish of the evening, the third course was a spicy scallop ceviche with corn nuts and a sweet potato puree. It also appears on the regular menu at Calyer.

A root vegetable salad, utilizing yuca, taro, and a panoply of other tubers and roots draped with purslane was the fourth course.

Fifth course: a shredded yuca fritter with some sea urchin in there somewhere, served atop a hot pork broth.

The sixth course was a large round ravioli stuffed with seafood and topped with puffed rice. At this point, the menu became more science cheffy.

As a seventh course, some fresh warm bread was served with a pancetta whip — not too Puerto Rican, but very good.

A strip of chicharron (fried pork skin) light as a feather arrived plunged in a pair of gummy purees constituted the eighth course.

Course nine was some sort of ice cream or cold pudding topped with a crunchy coating that immediately got stuck between our teeth. At this point, our attention was flagging.

The meal was redeemed by this omnibus platter, a course ten consisting of smooshed cubes of rice pudding with some crunchy bean topping (standing in for the rice and beans component of a typical Puerto Rican meal), a puddle of brandy-laced dulce de leche, and various other flavor notes, plus a tiny torpedo of white bean ice cream.

Then there was a marshmallow that tasted like it was rubbed with sassafras, which I’m not counting as a course.

Finally, the eleventh course was an agreeable, sugar-dusted sweet roll.

While the meal didn’t really explore the glories of Puerto Rican food (no asapao, no roast baby pork, no mofongo, no rice and beans), it did emphasize the roots, tubers, and other foodstuffs dear to Puerto Ricans, and some of the food was damn good and well turned-out.

The prix fixe for the dinner was $65. With two drinks and tip, the all-in cost came to something like $95 per person.

92 Calyer Street
Greenpoint, Brooklyn