An all-new (to me) cuisine
- Jeremy Osner
In my year and a half of living in Jackson Heights, I've eaten a lot of Colombian and Ecuadorian food; also Bolivian once or twice, and plenty of Mexican. Tonight I ate, for the first time, Salvadorean food, and was very happy indeed.
I went to Tierras Salvadorenas, on 37th Ave. and 95th Street. It seemed like a good sign when I looked at the menu and saw tamales everywhere (I'm a big fan of most dishes made with dried corn), so I decided to give it a try.
I ordered the Tamal de Sal combination platter, which is a beef tamale served with: rice, refried beans, sweet plantains, sausage, tortilla, cheese and cream. (Whew!) (The cream sauce, which is served with most dishes on the menu, tastes like sour cream but is liquid.)
In many restaurants, when you order a main dish served with several items on the side, the main dish is really the focus of the order, the other things just there to take up space on the plate. But here, each thing on the plate was its own little highlight! (Except the sweet plantains -- they were good but not inspirationally so.) The tamale was fantastic -- extremely moist and flavorful. The rice and beans were top-notch: I often complain that too many restaurants can't get rice quite right; but here the rice was excellent and the beans were great too, a different style of refries than I am used to. The chorizos -- again a different style than what I'm used to -- were crispy-tender and packed with flavor. And the tortilla was, to me, the real highlight of the meal. It was thick enough to be borderline-arepa, and it had just been cooked (I think from masa harina rather than nixtamal) -- too good for words.