March 16th, 2008
I’ve lived in Washington Heights for three years, and there are three restaurants that keep me consistently grateful for their existence: Park Terrace Bistro, Garden Cafe, and La Estufa. I’ll be reviewing them in ascending order of foodlust, La Estufa being somewhat slutted after, and Park Terrace being the most likely to reduce me to a grub-rutting fool. First up’s La Estufa.
I love La Estufa more and more with each visit. They serve healthy fare, loosely Italian-American, presented unassumingly, priced reasonably, and delivered with gracious & attentive service. It’s not often I feel this taken care of in New York during the course of a meal — & in a way that’s free from unctuousness, irony or uncomfortable fastidiousness.
La Estufa excels in simple grilled meat, fish & vegetable dishes, & has a solid wine list to pair these with. The restaurant doesn’t wow with innovative plating, striking flavor combinations, ambitious dish structures or arty ambience — and it absolutely doesn’t need to. Every dish I’ve had there has been tasteful, tasty, proportioned well, seasoned properly, fresh & wholesome (but not bland), & presented with sincere smiles & follow-up.
Food highlights include their bread (grainy & dense but moist & touched with what tastes like honey); their vegetables (zucchini and squash often accompany the meat entrees in a lightly oiled, garlicked, thin-sliced fan-spread); and their transcendent Pear Cabernet tart: silk-textured, simple & seductive.
My carps are minor: for starters, their brunch dishes I’ve found sparse — especially egregious was an over-priced & meager strawberry & apple fruit-dish. I also feel their dinner entrees could use a touch more creativity, daring, innovation — a signature dish here, a novel bit of flavor-alchemy there — something to set La Estufa apart in what’s increasingly becoming a competitive, Wahi+Inwood eating hub.
Still, with consistency, service & prices like these, I’m happy to keep coming back whether or not they change a thing. In an eating market like New York’s, cluttered with gimmick & forty dollar finery, graceful, honest basics like these stand out with very little need for improvement.
5035 Broadway (between 214th and 215th)
New York, NY 10034
La Estufa’s Website
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2008
Next up: Garden Cafe