I currently reside in the East Village in Manhattan, New York. The neighborhood includes an interesting mix of yuppies and hipsters, most of them hailing from such far off lands as Connecticut, the Upper West Side, and - gulp - Chicago. There are also the old neighborhood stalwarts, old-timers of many ethnicities who moved in long before the great influx of the last two decades, mostly with tattoos and mean looking dogs. Some might be able share interesting stories involving street gangs, horse and smack, and Bob Dylan. Who knows?
The real soul of the neighborhood though, the backdrop, the terra firma if you will, are the residents who were there long before the East Village was hip to kids from Connecticut, even perhaps before writers and artists and other aspiring junkies moved there in the 60s and 70s. And of course, the children of those residents, and their relatives who still come over from distant lands in the Spanish-speaking Carribbean.
Thankfully this Carribean/Puerto Rican/Nuyorican backdrop, gives an otherwise bland (as far as food goes, I won't profess to pass judgment on other aspects of the E. Village) landscape some seriously interesting peaks. Even if they are few and far between.
One of those peaks is Casa Adela, a small storefront of Ave. C, also known as "Loisada Ave." Unlike many of the "cuchifrito" places in the neighborhood that specialize in fried snacks sitting under heat lamps (which can be delicious) and vast selections of steam-table stews, Casa Adela mostly prepares its food to order, and does so carefully. It doesn't hurt either that the food is delicious, unique, and very affordably priced.
My friend and I ordered some mofongo to start. We were informed that it would take about 20 minutes. I knew this was a good sign, a thought that was quickly confirmed when I saw one of the proprietresses banging on fried plaintains and pork cracklins and other fixins in a traditional giant wooden mortar and pestle - the pilón.
We also ordered entries of each octopus salad and a fried chicken cutlet (a sort of chicken milanesa, to use Mexican terms familiar to all of us Chicago folk). Choices of sides included brown (flavored, not the healthy crap) or white rice, black or red beans, fried plaintains (tostones) or a small salad. I believe you can choose either rice and beans, or plaintains and salad.
All of the food was spectacular. The chicken cutlet consisted of a pounded breast (not too thin, though) fried-to-order that was crisp on the outside and juicy within.
The octopus salad was pleasantly sour and tangy, containing large chunks of soft octopus with pieces of onion and green pepper, and the occasional bite of fresh cilantro. This was heavenly poured over white rice.
Mofongo was my favorite bite, and I'm still thinking about it. Made fresh to order, the shapely mound contained a perfect ratio of crispy/chewy plaintain and pork bits to mashed parts, and was garlicy as all get out. Sadly, we neglected to ask for the traditional accompaniments, garlic sauce (similar to what gets put on jibaritos in Chicago) and consomme on the side. Being that my friend and I were first-timers, I don't think we got VIP service, but they were still nice as heck, if a bit gruff.
All of the sides were great - who doesn't like fresh tostones, especially covered in hot sauce - they had Matouk's on the table! Rice wasn't over-cooked. And the beans were silky and full of delicious liquor. It was a great meal.
We ordered flan for dessert and got a delicious, albeit small, piece of creamy custard in a cinnamon-y caramel sauce. The entire bill was $30 without tip.
If you are in the East Village, you'd better check out Casa Adela.
66 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009
Between 5th and 4th
Here's a picture: