Leña Latin Grill is Way Better Than We Expected
When Leña Latin Grill opened up in June (on 35th btw. 5+6th), we pegged it as a “Latin Chipotle” (yes, South American would have made more sense) and comments were mixed. Since then I’ve stopped in several times and to be honest… I keep going back for more. See why after the jump.
As Mamacita pointed out in the comments of our first post about Leña, they use a wood-burning stove in the kitchen here. The Colombian chef, Ronny, worked under Mario Batali for years at Lupa and has high hopes for Leña to be a dinner spot as well, once they get their beer and wine license – and the scaffolding comes down from in front of the shop. Given the quality of the food, I think he’s on the right track.
On my initial visits, I tried out the wraps. First it was the steak ($8.95), then the grilled chicken ($7.75). Both of the meats are great, but I was underwhelmed by the wraps in general.
The wraps are so packed with lettuce and corn, it’s pretty much a bundle of salad, which might be your thing, but doesn’t get me too excited. The sauces, particularly the garlicky chimmichurri, do work well in the wraps, permeating the veggies and the meat, but still.
I gave up on the wraps after a while and have since stuck with the plate lunches which come with two sides and a good sized cut of meat. The fried chicken cutlet ($9.75) looked like it could be too dry when I got it, but had a juicy interior and a crispy shell that was very tasty.
The grilled chicken ($9.50) was similarly moist, and had nice char marks on it from the wood-burning grill in the back.
I ordered the side of coconut rice as an afterthought, but ended up absolutely loving it. Usually ‘coconut’ dishes have shavings that could very well be made from sawdust, but this rice had actual chunks of toasted coconut inside that really propelled the flavor throughout the dish.
If you don’t mind splurging outside of ML range, the steak is still a good deal. $12.25 gets you a skirt steak cooked to order with two sides. My only complaint with this particular meal was that the tostones were too dry and not salty enough for my taste, but I grew up with sweet plantains, so that may just be me.
Speaking of splurging, the juices are pricey at $4 each, but taste amazingly fresh and are so good I rarely manage to have any left before receiving my food. With flavors like mango, passion fruit, watermelon and guava, they are ridiculously refreshing.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s great to get some higher end Latin flavors than the steam trays at Tina’s and K Foods Pizza.
- Skirt Steak, cooked to order for lunch, is awesome. (And I don’t mind spending the extra couple of bucks)
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I want more from a wrap than a bundled salad.
- Those juices are expensive, but so good!
- Come to think of it… everything is a bit pricey
Lena Latin Grill, 34 W 35th St (btw. 5+6th)