Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Poco Delivers Big Flavors with New Chef

Delicious shrimp ceviche with grilled pineapple
When Poco opened on a busy corner of Alphabet City in 2009, it came with an award-winning chef - Abe Lopez, champ of  the Food Network series "Chopped." Lopez excelled with creative twists on tapas staples, and when he moved on, the dining experience suffered.

Enter Chef Angel Bolanos of Stanton Social. The spark is back in a big way. And Bolanos' lifelong love of food and travel is served on each small plate.

Before culinary school, the Queens native spent his teen years living in Ecuador. As young as 13, he traveled on his own throughout South America, picking up cooking techniques along the way. He can wax lyrical about the intricate differences between rice in Ecuador, Peru and Columbia. He can also tell you what it is like living in the rainforest where protein of any kind was king (he admits staying away from the larvae and grasshoppers).

Braised brisket arepas with pico de gallo
His Poco kitchen is heavily - but not exclusively -  influenced by Latin flavors. The selection of ceviche is tantalizing, especially the shrimp with grilled pineapple, slivered almonds and chilis ($10). Its bright, citrusy crunch is met with just the right amount of heat. The braised brisket arepas ($8) are also tender, flavorful mouthfuls.

You might not expect a Vietnamese curry on the menu, but that's why Bolanos is a chef to watch. His signature dish is the pan seared scallops ($13) in a bowlful of the most delicious curry with king mushrooms. We literally picked up our bowls to drink every last drop of the rich fragrant sauce. And then encouraged the table next to us to follow suit.

Dreamy scallops in Vietnamese curry
Bolanos admits it's taken him 10 years to perfect. As a former chef at Vietnamese restaurants, he was compelled to master this creation after his very first try was an admitted disaster. I dream of this dish now.

The assertive menu is well edited for grazing: inventive tapas, ceviche, grown up mac 'n' cheeses, sliders and sharing plates. Bolanos is busy creating his autumn menu and is especially excited to introduce his butternut squash and smoked pork knuckles, as well as Brussels sprouts with cranberries and cashew crunch. And for the sweet tooth, look out for a fig souffle, and quinoa brownie.  Bring on fall.

33 Ave B @ E 3rd St
Tues - Wed, 5pm - 1am
Thurs - Fri, 5pm - 2am
Sat - Sun, 11:30am - 5pm
Sat, 6:30pm - 2am
Sun, 6:30pm - 1am
212 228 4461

Poco on Urbanspoon

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