219 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene
It’s hard to picture a better date spot than this new South American hideaway. Tucked just below street level—and filled with candlelight and laughter—the front room includes a handful of tables and a long, bustling bar. Behind the front room, you’ll find the real draw: a romantic dining area beneath a ceiling paneled with glass between dark wood beams. The scraped-up butcher-block tables, the natural fibers woven over the seats at the tables and the stools at the bar, and the hefty black ceramic tableware add to the restaurant’s rustic appeal. Launched by the proprietors of Cómodo in SoHo, Colonia Verde only opened its doors in mid-February, but it’s already a neighborhood sensation: they don’t take reservations, and at 7:55pm on a chilly Tuesday night, there was already a 45-minute wait for a table, though there was still space to dine at the bar. Within five minutes, however, even the bar had filled up with young, polished patrons sipping potent cocktails. True to its name, the El Fuerte packed a boozy blend of mezcal bourbon, Cocchi Americano and mole bitters. Pisco sours and tequila cocktails pair well with Colonia Verde’s arepas: sweet little hominy flatbreads, the size of silver-dollar pancakes, topped with cool avocados, spicy Serrano salsa and machaca, a sexy term for rehydrated beef, which was far juicier and more flavorful than you might expect from a reconstituted meat.
Unfortunately, the other dishes we tried were less successful. “El Diablo Escoces,” a Scotch egg with a South American spin, was wrapped in a tough, half-inch thick layer of sausage and doused with creamy esquite-style corn. Overly rich, served at room temperature and pricey at $11, the egg lacked the elegance of the arepas. The lone salad on the menu was more of a small sampling of winter vegetables on a plate—a crescent of sweet roasted squash, a bite of pleasantly earthy roasted maitake mushroom and an underwhelming pile of limp greens and something that resembled sauerkraut. Our server recommended the chicken frito over the coffee-rubbed, slow-braised pork shoulder, but maybe he shouldn’t have: the skin on the fried half-chicken was so thickly blackened that it had to be sawed off the bird and tasted a bit like biting through chile-rubbed coal. The meat within was cottony and dry. On the tables around us, the steak-eating patrons seemed happier with their wood-fired meat. And once our barely touched chicken was swept away to make room for a dessert mug filled with caramelized bananas, pound cake and smoky pecans in a sticky-sweet glaze, we were happy, too.