It's always a treat to discover specialty cuisine where you least expect it, like sushi from the ballpark, or anything edible from your kitchen. Dishing out pleasant surprises at a beer bar, The Institute
A year after they debuted as a beer snob's wet dream, with 12 taps and a 50+ bottle list of hard-to-find domestic microbrews and even harder-to-pronounce Euro suds in a 'hood where Corona's considered exotic, then added an upstairs whiskey bar with six flatscreened Wii booths, the Institute opens its kitchen tonight, specializing in Puerto Rican fusion -- a devilish culinary twist on the beloved standard Puerto Rican food you've also never eaten. Starters and sides range from traditional PR dishes like tostones, empanadas, and shredded plantain fritters, to more imaginative takes on the island territory's gastronomy, like bacalaitos made w/ pollock instead of the usual salt cod; seafood chowder w/ shrimp, crab, & chayote squash puree; and pineapple rum & sweet-chili-sauced Island Wings, a spinoff which wasn't nearly as funny when the guy from Monk was replaced by Harry Belafonte. Larger plates include a slow-cooked pork sandwich w/ mango bbq sauce, hanger steak marinated in lightly spiced house-made marinade & cilantro butter, pan-seared red snapper in coconut white wine sauce w/ mango salsa, and bacon-wrapped, sofrito-topped chicken breast stuffed with mofongo, also the name of a sassy talking springbok in an upcoming Disney feature
To complement the new fare, The Institute's currently developing a rotating selection of specialty cocktails and'll introduce an expanded wine list over the next few weeks, to be followed by a downstairs renovation, including a redesigned bar with more seating than the current six-stool setup -- an abundance of stools, the exact reason you're not eating anything from your kitchen.