Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > New Jersey >
May 9, 2008 12:52 PM

salsa latina in matawan

i just saw an ad in the news transcript that salsa latina, an authentic puerto rican cuisine restaurant, was now opened in the park plaza mall on rt 34in matawan. anyone tried it yet?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I, too, saw the ad. The menu looks inviting. Of course, it all hinges on how good the food is.

    1. My sister and my niece went last night to Salsa Latina. We were very impressed. First of all I felt like I was actually in Puerto Rico having dinner as the decor and the atmosphere just took me there. The food was excellent, tasty and fresh. The portions were enough to share if you wanted to. The owner was very friendly and on several occasions stopped by our table to check to see how things were going and if we were pleased with our meals. Its definitely a must try. I am planning to go back to take my friends and my family as well. I am so happy that finally we have a Spanish Restaurant to go to that is not far away from home. I wish this restaurant much success and growth in the future.

      3 Replies
      1. re: evvazq1963

        Went back Sat night and I must say, the food was still consistent. We thoroughly enjoyed this meal as well as the one last Friday night. We brought some friends this time and they were pleasantly surprised. This time we tried the pernil(sliced pork) which my husband loved. It was a generous portion of sliced, tender pork topped with onions. I tried the shrimp in creole sauce which definitely had more kick that the shrimp in garlic sauce. Hard to decide which I like best. Our friends had the shrimp in garlic sauce and the skirt steak and they both were delighted. We couldnt resist ordering the mussels as an appetizer again, but we also tried the beef empanadas which were nice and chrispy and very flavorful inside. Our friend also ordered a house salad which was huge and very fresh. I agree with evvazq1963 one point in the evening after a glass or two of wine, I said to my friends...." I feel like I am in Puerto Rico on vacation having dinner". I think it is the atmosphere and the just get kind of transported. The restaurant was not really busy last night........but summertime is tough with barbeques and people always headed to the shore. My husband enjoyed talking to the owner about authentic Puerto Rican food and we wish her the very best of luck. I am sure word of mouth will bring many to try Salsa Latina.

        1. re: charmel

          Thanks all! Now I can get asapado without going to Puerto Rico! I'm upset I didn't report this restaurant first, as I live in Aberdeen, but the ads I saw touted it as Spanish-Italian fusion, and that scared me away.

          1. re: aacharya

            Funny you mention Spanish-Italian because when we ate there I saw a couple of specials that were very Italian like (some Parmigiana, can't remember)
            Not having seen any ads I assumed it was some "Spanish take" on the dish :))

            Their Puerto Rican (Spanish) menu is great, heres hoping they keep the Italian only for those in a group that must have something familiar.

            We need to get back there soon.

      2. All I have to say is...hurry up and get in there before the word gets out! Finally!!! An authentic caribbean spanish restaurant south of the Raritan. My wife and I are both from the caribbean (Dominican/me, Puerto Rican/she) and we grew up on this type of food and our experience yesterday was like a family reunion. We've been in NJ for 19 years and the closest we've we can get food like this is in Perth Amboy and coming from Monmouth/Ocean County border that's not always a trip you want to make.

        The atmosphere, music, service, decor and the food (OH MY THE FOOD!!!!). It was great!! Our friends have been telling us about this place for over a month and we knew just on their recommendation that it was worth checking out (they're Cuban/Puerto Rican). When I try a new place I usually go for a common signature dish (i.e. Pad Thai in a Thai rest) and work my way up from there, but with Spanish food, I like to go for the not so common since I've been exposed to it all my life. I had the Ropa Vieja (Shredded Beef) and my wife had Monfongo (Mashed green plantains with crispy pork rind and garlic) and it was delicious! We also had their empanadas (beef paties) and rellenos de papa (mashed potato ball stuffed with groud beef) to start things off and we knew that it was going to be like being home. I could say a lot more, but it wouldn't help you experience it any sooner, so go and try it...I don't think you'll be disappointed.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. I'm sad to say I had a very medicore experience here last night. Maybe it was because we went so late (9:30) but that shouldn't be a reason. Started off with papa rellenas and thought the presentation was weak but they were tasty. However, by the time I got to center of it, the potato and meat filling was actually cold.
            Husband ordered the Ropa Vieja and waiter came out and told him, the beef had went bad and they weren't preparing anymore. Ummm...maybe I should have left then. He should have just said they ran out. No one wants to hear the food went bad. At least they didn't serve it to us.
            I had the skirt steak and found it very chewy and difficult to cut. The yellow rice was dry and the black beans both my husband and I agree had no discerning flavor to them. The fried plantains were good but very thick. I've always had them were they were flattened more, but again they were lukewarm. Husband said his pork chop was just ok. I'm really disappointed because there aren't many places serving this type of cuisine in the area. After living in Weehawkin and enjoying many great places in Union City and West New York, I long for these flavors.

            12 Replies
            1. re: dani0622

              The wife and I joined the Seals for dinner this evening at Salsa Latina. Due to the generally positive reviews, we went with high expectations. I am sorry to report that but for a few decent dishes, the bgut1's were disappointed with our meals. As a whole, I would have to agree with dani0622's characterization of the food at SL as being "very mediocre" at best.

              Wanting to try as many dishes as possible we ordered four different starters and entrees to pass around. For starters we ordered as follows: the empanadas, the garlic shrimp, the shrimp piri piri, and the Salsa Latina chopped salad. Of these four dishes, the two best were the empanadas and the garlic shrimp. The other two dishes however were problematic. We had inquired prior to ordering whether the shrimp piri piri was spicy (as it should be) and was assured as such. Instead, that shrimp dish suffered from the same malady as many of the dishes at SL; it lacked flavor. The salad was also weird. While it contained all of the listed ingredients (i,e. grilled shrimp, tomato, chick peas, avocado and gorgonzola cheese) it was completely dry and lacked any dressing. When we inquired of our waiter about the lack of dressing, he advised that the oil from the grilled shrimp was supposed to dress the salad.

              We then proceeded to order our entrees hoping they would be better than our starters. We ordered the following entrees: the Churrasco (skirt steak), Pernil (roast pork), the Shrimp Mofongo and the Shrimp in Hot Creole Sauce. IMHO, the only passable dish was the mofongo and that is solely because I enjoyed the dipping sauce that came with it. Surprisingly, the side salad which accompanied this dish also came dry without a dressing of any kind.

              As far as the other dishes, the Creole shrimp was exactly the same as the flavorless piri piri shrimp we had ordered as a starter while the Pernil also lacked any type of seasoning. I thought the Churrasco was okay but my wife didn't seem to enjoy it. Instead of chancing dessert, we decided to pay our bill and leave. Cost for the four of us was $100 excluding gratuity. But for the excellent company it would have been a disappointing evening. I am sorry to say that I would not return to Salsa Latina and couldn't in good conscious recommend it. Good Luck.

              1. re: bgut1

                bgut1- Thank you for your review. I've heard some good things from a few people now about Batista's Puerto Rican Eatery (spelling?) in Keansburg that recently opened. I plan on trying that soon.

                1. re: dani0622

                  Just a note about Batista's in Keansburg. I love the place. Be aware, it is more of a take-out place. They have a few tables, but it is small. I don't think they have waiter service.
                  If you want to try the food, but don't want to eat inside, drive down to the beach at the end of Main St. There is a scenic boardwalk and the Keansburg amusements area. Keansburg is a vibrant little town.

                  1. re: val ann c

                    Thanks Val. Yes, I've heard from someone else that it's more of a take-out place. Ah, yes Keansburg, been going to the boardwalk since a kid. Need to get back there for a hot dog at Heidelberg (hoping it's still as good as I remember it).

                  2. re: dani0622

                    dani - Please let us know what you think of Batista's. I'm interested in trying it as well.

                    1. re: bgut1

                      Will do! I'm hoping to get there this weekend. Craving a Cuban sandwich.

                  3. re: bgut1

                    bgut -- My wife and I almost ended up at Salsa Latina last night. It would have been a kick to run into you and Seal. Due to the mixed reviews, I may hold off a bit longer.

                    1. re: jsfein

                      j - While I would have loved to see you and your wife, I take some consolation from the fact that you didn't have to experience the mediocre food. Did you happen to go someplace chow worthy instead?

                    2. re: bgut1

                      What he said. ;o)

                      No, seriously. It was mediocre food at best.

                      I almost feel bad saying so, as we met the owner and chef at meal's end and she seemed very nice. I wonder if she is suffering under a common delusion of ethnic eateries that, in order to appease the masses, you have to tone things down a bit. I would advise just the opposite approach - thrill us with the bold and spicy flavors and we will be back in droves.

                      Always a nice time with our local hound friends, the bguts, but the food left us wanting.

                      1. re: seal

                        Thank you so much for the review, I was going to take my family there next Saturday but I think we will be heading to Union City insted. I too believe that too many restaurants bow to the masses and dilute their cuisine and in turn, their culture in order not to offend unexperienced or even worse, unadventrious palets. How many times have we read about a new, exciting, and authentic restaurant, only to hear that they have become a pale shadow of their former self.

                        1. re: currymouth

                          Currymouth, I wish I could remember the name of my fav joint in West New York. Sooo good.

                          As far as Salsa Latina, I believe in my case, it wasn't dilute food. It was just plain bad. I posted a full review on my blog (address in my profile).


                      2. re: bgut1

                        Hey, bgut and seal,

                        I'm so sorry you and your lovely spouses had such a disappointing experience at Salsa Latina. But I thank you for saving Mr. R. and me from a mediocre meal. S.L. has been on my "go to" list. In a word: Deleted!