Friday, February 16, 2007

Cafe Atlantico

I was going to title this post OW MY STOMACH, but that would give everyone the wrong idea about our brunch at Cafe Atlantico. Auntie Em and Uncle Tim are regular dim sum buddies of ours. They spent a good deal of time in the Bay area, so they really know their dim sum. Ok, I don't mean to be racist but having dim sum with white folks can be exhausting. I used to say that there had to be a 1-to-1 Asian-to-non dim sum ratio before I would go out to dim sum. What is second nature to Asians who know dim sum, requires a great deal of explaining and cajoling with the non Asians. Luckily that so isn't the case with the Timily's.

To branch out we all decided to go to Cafe Atlantico for their Latin Dim Sum brunch featuring lovely small plates of their Latin influenced dishes. When we saw that the menu had a deluxe tasting menu for $34.95 that included everything on the menu. we were all sold. And seriously, I have never eaten that much food in my life. It was so crazy good I can't stand it. I told J to hightail it home after our three hour brunch so I could lay down and digest for the rest of the afternoon.

When I see tasting menu, I totally was thinking teeny weeny little portions. But they were definitely dim sum portions and enough for everyone. The dishes were well spaced so that we could be sated but still were able to appreciate each dish. Service was so lovely that we even got a change of plates (that we were eating off of) in the middle of the 25 course tasting menu. Ok and here's the true kicker - After 23 courses and before dessert, the server told us that as part of the tasting menu we could order ANYTHING we liked again. ANYTHING!!!!!! For the first time in my life, I turned down food because we still had two dessert courses to go and I felt as I I would explode.

The true highlight of the meal were the conch fritters - chopped conch in a savory gravy, FROZEN and then rolled into balls, dipped in beer batter and deep fried. It was a fritter with a savory gravy middle. THIS is why I go to restaurants because there ain't no way I'm making that at home. Close on its heels was a duck leg confit that had a lovely French savoriness to it. While it was served on the bone, the meat just fell off. The skin had a candy-like crunch to it. As a perfect brunch food, the fried eggs with black beans and pork were hearty and warming.

I wasn't too crazy about the differnet ravioli made with jicima as the skin. One, filled with avacado just tasted like a pouch of guacamole. The pasty softness of an avacado cries out for crunch with the thinly sliced jicama didn't provide. But one blah dish in a sea of spectacular is a damn good track record.

To paraphrase Julia Robert in Steel Magnolias - I'd rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special. Well, Julia, how would you feel about 24 dishes of wonderful?


john patrick said...

I like "Latin." I like "dim sum." And I like "brunch."

And certainly, it sounds delicious!

But I would have probably called it "tapas" and left it at that. Oh well, in Seattle there's a restaurant called "Jack's Asian Tapas" which similarly sounds five kinds of wrong to me, but I digress.

The way I cope when I go with white friends to dim sum is by not allowing the white people make decisions or have too much communication with the delightfully pushy waiters. It's just easier that way. You may not have this problem on the East Coast, but white Seatllites definitely have a smile and nod that means "no." And of course the delightfully pushy waiters interpret it as a "yes," and suddenly it's on the table and on the bill.

Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

We've had this place on our list of places to try. And your post only makes me want to go even more.

ScottE. said...

So happy you had a great experience there. Every time we've been there it's been a disappointment. You luckies!

Giada said...

Mmmm... Cafe Atlantico. I really need to cut back on the Saturday night wine so that I'm in shape to enjoy Sunday brunch more often.