This weekend I was feeling like I needed to hit the Caribbean scene and specifically the Dominican Republic since they were on my “not yet done” list. As the surrogate for the DR I found Punta Cana in Charlotte.
It’s easy to find from the road as it is a stand alone building of good size. Inside is a large main seating area and also a sort of sun room area with more tables. Dominican maps, flags and other memorabilia adorn the walls including these interesting masks. There were two more on the other side of the TVs. I forgot to ask the significance but they were pretty cool.
They’ve got several flat screens mounted on the walls and a poster for live music so there is certainly an indication of a busy evening spot. When I entered I was greeted with a smile and seated quickly as there were only a couple of other tables occupied. By the time I left though the place was three quarters full.
Once I’d had a chance to look over a pretty extensive menu I had a couple of questions and the waitress patiently answered them.
Sidebar – Kudos to the wait staff for continuously circulating and answering questions with good grace. I overheard the conversation between the server and a lady behind me and the server had to explain this was not a Mexican restaurant and they didn’t have burritos and tacos and then patiently asked the lady some questions and made a couple of recommendations to her that totally worked based on more overheard conversation.
Anyway I settled on the mofongo with chivo (goat) after my Q&A with the helpful young lady waiting on me. She did kind of look at me and asked if I’d had goat before and liked it and was satisfied when I assured her I had and did. As the “keep them busy” course they provided a basket of garlic bread.
Thin sliced, lightly toasted and fairly garlicy. I had one piece while I was waiting because I had a feeling this was going to be a substantial lunch and I wasn’t wrong.
As you can see it came in two separate dishes and my first instinct was to ladle the goat over the mofongo but I figured I’d ask so I didn’t commit some culinary faux pas that would get me banned for life from Dominican food. When I asked the waitress if you were supposed to eat them separately or combine them or what she went politician on me “however you want is OK”. She was a bit more definitive when I asked “How would you eat it?”. “With the gravy all over” the mofongo (that’s just fun to type) was the answer so I felt good about my instinct.
Okay by now if you haven’t Googled it or didn’t already know you’re probably saying to yourself, “What the heck is mofongo?” Well what it is happens to be fried green plantains with butter (oil is also apparently acceptable), garlic, salt and little bits of crispy pork mashed into a dome shaped mound. They use this as the base and have a lot different partners to serve it with. As I said I got the goat because I like the rich taste of it and you don’t get it just anywhere. The goat stew was bony, as it can be, so I made sure to take care when spooning it on the mofongo. The mofongo had and interesting texture, in a good way, and soaked up the gravy like a good starch. The chivo was cooked pretty tender but did require a bit of chewing. It had a great flavor being cooked with just a few onions and peppers plus spices. The combo was really very tasty and oh my goodness so filling I couldn’t quite finish it all.
The waitress asked me how I liked it and seemed to be genuinely pleased I enjoyed it so much. It’s nice when the staff seems invested in the success of the dishes. I’ll say the Yelp ratings are just above average for this place and I don’t understand why. My experience was way above average in quality of food and service. I’d say they were a good proxy for the DR and would definitely recommend them.
If you are interested in know more about the Dominican Republic check out the Tell Me More page.