It was a foggy, somewhat dreary night when decided to pop into Playa, a new Latin spot in Park Slope. And our spirits were instantly lifted. Playa, which means "beach" in Spanish, pulls off the concept quite well with its cabana bar, hand-painted beach scenes and sand-colored banquettes. In fact, it feels more like a night club than a restaurant, making it a terrific spot for cocktails.
The signiture drink at Playa is something called a "Bonfire Bowl". It arrives in a ceramic bowl filled with tropical rum punch and lined with pineapple slices. 150 proof rum is then placed on top and lit on fire. The result is a flaming volcano drink that serves up to four for $16. The bar also mixes up mojitos, mango caipirinhas and other tropical drinks. The night we visited, a satisfying sangria was being served at five dollars a glass. But, don't leave without tasting the food. Chef Adrian Leon is serving up tantalizing morsels from Latin and South America, and the Caribbean.
We started with a bowl of some of the freshest guacamole I've had in quite some time. It was nicely chilled with lots of chunks of avocado and topped with tiny bits of hot jalapenos. It is a must-have served in its own lava bowl with homemade tortilla chips ($7.25). You'll also enjoy the complimentary popcorn dusted with chili powder and served in cigar boxes. Other starters include Pano de Bono ($3.95), a Colombian cheese bread served warm, and three types of ceviche; salmon with citrus topiko jalapeno and avocado ($8.25), shrimp picante with chipotle roasted tomato mango salsa ($7.95) and fluke tiradito served with bits of orange and avocado in a ponzu chili oil ($8.95). You can order the ceviches individually or sample all three for $11.95.
All of the entrees we tried were very good and the portions are not skimpy at all. Lechon, a traditional roasted pork, was wonderfully moist and tender ($12.95). It's served pulled pork-style on a banana leaf. The only thing missing were pieces of crackling, the crispy bits of skin that line the pork. Next, time we'll be sure to ask for some. It's served with rice and black beans. BBQ Ribs ($13.25) were thick and meaty and packed a bit of a kick. It was accompanied by crispy yucca fries and flavorful sweet plaintains. The Pescada, a Latin take on fish and chips ($13.75), offered up two thick cod filets in a crispy tempura batter with a lemon garlic crema nata. Other house specialties include a Dominican roast chicken ($13.75), jumbo shrimp with a mojito marinade ($16.95) and salmon served with a Peruvian blue potato hash and string bean salad.
For dessert, be sure to order a slice of a very tart Key Lime pie. It marked a perfect end to what was a perfect meal. Finally, it seems this corner of President Street has hooked a winner with Playa!