How good (or bad) can Dominican tapas be?

Pretty bad in Mamajuana Cafe (midtown), as I found out when I dined there on a recent Friday evening 😦

Many Open Table reviews are pretty good.  So, we went there thinking that it’s worth checking out.   When we entered the restaurant, we realized that its part of a hotel (the Radisson), and it was not too busy for a Friday evening.   Is it just me or are there other folks too, who think that food in hotel restaurants are not necessarily the best tasting?

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Nothing on the cocktail menu was exciting enough for us to order.  So, we did not get any drinks.

We ordered the following:

  • Guacamole and Carribean root chips:  The guacamole looked suspiciously pre-made and frozen.  The dull green and brown should have been a dead give-away.  The bright and eye-popping colors of the root chips lead one to believe that they were perhaps made from corn and make one hope that  they include food safe colors.  The dish included avocados, some onions, and tomatoes – but does that make it a guacamole when it does not include adequate salt, lime, cilantro, and chilies?  Definitely NOT!  When the guacamole does not meet expectations, it should be a sign of things to come.
  • Ensalada de Calamares (Calamari Salad):  This was a salad of bitter greens and cashew nuts in a honey citrus paprika glaze on crispy calamari.  The calamari was warm and crispy – felt like it was freshly fried (what a relief, right?!) I was happy that the calamari was not smelly or stringy or chewy and that the greens were not too bitter.  There were no cashewnuts or traces of  any nuts in the salad.  May be they fell off the plate as the dish was being brought to the table.
  • Pinchos (skewers of chicken and chorizo – we skipped the beef):  The chicken was palatable when hot.  Once it cooled, it felt “extra” dry and tasteless.  The chorizos were bland as well.

Any other vegetarian items on the menu? 

Vegetarian readers, if you do not get the guacamole, and the green salad (without the calamari), you can get the goat cheese empanadas.  There is little else that is vegetarian on the menu.

What is good about Mamajuana cafe in midtown? 

The best part of Mamajuana cafe in midtown is the hacienda type decor.

For what you spend here, you can get better food elsewhere (even in food carts, and the food in the carts is certainly worth waiting in line for, especially if you have tried NY Dosas at Washington Square Park)

Other Mamajuana Cafe locations in NYC

There are other outlets of Mamajuana Cafe in the Upper West Side and in Upper Manhattan (Dyckman St and Seaman Avenue) in NYC, but I am not sure if they are run or managed by the same folks.  Most of the Yelp and Menu Pages reviews of the restaurant are for the Upper Manhattan location.

Please, please tell me, are there other Dominican restaurants in NYC, where the food is great?

My thought on eating out: If you spend money on food, you have to enjoy the food – its taste, smell, texture, presentation etc.   If  you do not enjoy the food,  do not waste your calories on bad tasting food.  In the meanwhile, please stay away from Mamajuana cafe in midtown.

Other links to Mamajuana Cafe:

  • In case you were wondering, what is Mamajuana – here is the Wiki entry that says that is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is made by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs.
  • This Grubstreet NY link gives some tips on what to order in the Upper West Side (Amsterdam and 88 St) location (by Chef Ricardo Cardona) that opened in Dec 2011.  The photos look incredibly fantastic, but I am not sure I am ready to go to this location to try the dishes in this location.

Mamajuana Cafe on Urbanspoon

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4 comments

  1. There are lots of great places to get Dominican food in NYC but you’ll have to sacrifice decor. Dominicans like to eat, all the other stuff like decor is unnecessary for us so the fact that this restaurant was nicely decorated was your first warning it would be neither good nor authentic! Try uptown Washington Heights, Inwood, etc. Those places have the best authentic Dominican food for good prices.

    I would try Margot’s. She’s on 159 and Broadway I think. A whole in the wall but you can’t get more authentic than that.

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    1. Mechasketch – really great to get comments about Dominican food from you. While I do appreciate good decor in a restaurant, I am really there for good food.and not always spicy food. So, will definitely try Margot for authentic Dominican food. I love your blog too! All the best for your volunteer work in Northern Dominican Republic!!

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      1. Oh yes! I hope you like it, my favorite plate and maybe you’ll like it too, I’m not sure if you’re a vegetarian is the fried pork chop, rice, beans and an order of tostones. The plates there are fairly large though so I would bring someone to share it with! El Malecon is a little further uptown and they have the BEST pollo asado, you can see the chickens roasting on the spits in the window! Amazing! Thank you 🙂 It will be an amazing journey for me 🙂

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  2. Also never order anything that’s supposed to be spicy from a Dominican restaurant. Our food isn’t spicy, we don’t *really* eat spicy food so we don’t really use it in our food.

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