When you walk in to the East Village restaurant Confessional (308 East 6th Street; 212-477-2400), your eye is immediately drawn to the right wall, which reads, “Have you confessed?” The dark, romantic hole-in-the-wall restaurant is covered from corner to corner with black chalkboard paint, where patrons can pen their secrets. And many have.
Confessional’s menu is a mixture of dishes from across Latin America — Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Argentina, among others — with a European twist. While dishes like tamal, ceviche, and empanadas dot the menu, so, too, do dishes like paella, ratatouille, and chorizo.
Co-owner Erika Fisher is of Dominican descent but grew up in Puerto Rico, and though she’s not actually ethnically Puerto Rican, she feels like she’s half Dominican and half Puerto Rican. She grew up in a family restaurant business and emigrated to the U.S. 21 years ago. Those two aspects of her life feed directly into the theme of Confessional, which she opened with her uncle last summer.
The theme of the restaurant came to Fisher after she traveled throughout Latin America and Europe, after she’d realized that the concept of her restaurant needed to be different to stand out from the thousands of restaurants in New York City. The confessional idea is rooted in Fisher’s own immigrant story.
“People say what makes New York the city of the world is [that] it’s a city made by immigrants, whether you come from Latin [America] or you come from Los Angeles or Chicago,” she says. “[For immigrants,] sometimes it’s hard for you to be with your loved ones because you’re far from them, and sometimes your friends [are] not necessarily there for you….Maybe you have something on your chest you want to let out and you don’t necessarily want people to know, or you may not have a person to tell. [My restaurant is there to] let it free, to write it on the wall.”
Confessional’s menu has a small vegetarian selection, and the dishes are good. The sweet corn goat cheese tamal with vegetable ratatouille ($10) features a corn tamal with a heaping of a sweet and spicy tomato-based ratatouille loaded with pieces of zucchini and carrot. The sweet-savory tamal is soft, and it melts into the ratatouille, rounding out the dish.
Crunchy croquettes ($12) come stuffed with pieces of mushroom and slightly pungent manchego cheese. They’re served with a sweet red sauce, which nicely sets off the saltiness of the cheese, and a tart aioli.