Doña Emilias South American Grill
Went to Dona Emilia's today with a large group (13) for lunch. The service was very good and the food was good, too.
Apptizers: we ordered plantain chips (okay but not so flavorful to me, I did like the chimichurri salsa), queso de cabra that was yummy (the sweet panela sauce married very well with the goat cheese and aprepa), calamari that I thought was perfect but a co-diner thought was too chewy) and the mixed meat dish Picada, which I did not try but was not well-received by those near me who did.
I had the spinach salad, which had generous amounts of chevre, mango, and jicama, two or three split cherry tomatoes, and a rather negligible sprinkling of too-finely-chopped pecans, with blackberry "vinaigrette" that was creamy in texture and quite tasty and was topped with Churrasco that was cooked perfectly medium rare as ordered and was tender and delicious. The proportion of the ingredients was right on. I didn't taste any of the other entrees, but everyone seemed pleased and I didn't see any unfinished meals. Everything I saw looked good, and the portions were generous but not huge. Just right for lunch, in my opinion.
We ordered the Maduros Flambeados (sweet plantians and fresh strawberries in a caramel sauce, flambeed tableside and served with ice cream), chocolate souffle cake (also served with ice cream), tres leches cake, and flan. All were passed around the table so we could serve ourselves small portions of each. The desserts were ample enough that I'm pretty sure everyone got to taste everything, and they were all very tasty. Surprisingly, to me, they were all on a pretty equal footing of deliciousness, but the flan in particular stood out for its exceedingly creamy texture. The flambe was fun, but probably the weakest dessert to me in terms of flavor (the plantains were excellent, but the strawberries in cinnamon-caramel didn't seem right somehow).
All in all, it was a very happy and satisfying meal. A table that large can be a challenge to serve, and our server did a great job. She was on the ball and took good care of us.
The lunch menu is also relatively affordable. I do want to go back to try some of the dinner menu items, but I do notice that the prices for dinner are significantly higher than lunch.
I've been a couple of times with groups and mostly enjoyed it, and I got to sample a fairly wide part of their menu. What I remember particularly enjoying were the calamari (light crisp batter and just lightly fried), goat cheese appetizer (the tostones are a little bland but the cheese and the sauce are very tasty), and the beef empanada. There was a mixed meat appetizer that seemed too blatantly like kitchen scraps, though. It would have been better but some of the meats were a bit overcooked (pork). They do a larger version on the entree side, and the meats were cooked properly, go figure.
For main dishes, my favorite is the shredded beef stew. It comes with rice on the menu, but if you ask for the mashed potatoes instead, it's fantastic. The beef has a great flavor. The steaks are nicely done, but the pork chop is more memorable with a guava sauce. I wasn't impressed with the stuffed chicken breast, though my mom really liked it. She was also a big fan of the blackened salmon. The sea bass was awesome, but I try to avoid ordering sea bass. They also do some potato cake thing for vegetarians that was really good (stuffed with cheese) but really rich (stuffed with cheese).
Out of the desserts, I'd only strongly recommend the plantain flambe. It's delicious. The others were good but not very special (molten chocolate cake, flan, tres leches).
They have an awesome hamburger on the lunch menu, too, served on these sweet-ish buns.
You might sample them at happy hour, see if you like the flavors, before shelling out for a whole meal. The mojitos are good, and they have salsa and jazz sometimes.