The bottom line: Worth trying but don’t judge all Dominican food based on this restaurant!
Dominican food is very near and dear to my heart since I was born and spent part my childhood there. It is my duty to tell you about my visit to Punta Cana! No, not the vacation spot but one of the Dominican restaurants in Charlotte. If you are driving down South Blvd you won’t help but spot the little building with palm trees and green roof. The restaurant is of a moderate size and has a sunroom dining area. They also have live music there on weekends.
On to the food, I ordered a couple of things. Yes, I will admit I was a pig but this was my first visit to a Dominican restaurant in years. I started with ‘Quipes’ which are also known as ‘kibbeh’ in Lebanon and other middle eastern countries. ‘Quipes’ are made with bulgur wheat and are basically croquettes filled with ground meat. They are typically served as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres in Dominican cuisine. I have also had them in Turkey where they are known as ‘kofte’ and they are simply amazing. Why is such a dish part of Dominican cuisine you ask? Well this is due to an influx of Lebanese and middle eastern immigrants to the island way back when. That’s my historical tidbit for this post :). The quipes at Punta Cana were pretty good. I have had better but I would eat them again.
For my main meal I had ‘mofongo’. I will admit that if you have never had mofongo this can be an intimidating dish to try. Mofongo is mainly made of fried green plantain, garlic, and pork skin (also known as ‘chicharron’) all mashed up and served in a wooden mortar and pestle. Sounds gross? Think again. This dish when done well is freaking fantastic. One that should be eaten once in a blue moon of course. I don’t even want to know how many calories are hitching a ride in this bundle of deliciously fried goodness. Punta Cana’s mofongo was a little bit dry.
It is served with a tomato based sauce and a garlic-lemon sauce. I wasn’t too crazy about the tomato sauce so I stuck to the garlic-lemon sauce. The restaurant also didn’t serve it in the mortar and pestle as it is traditionally served in most places.
They did serve it with a generous portion of a meat of your choice. Those in my party had fried chicken, roasted pork, and pork skins. It also came with a side salad. The dish is very heavy so the side salad helped to lessen my guilt. Oh, the lies I tell myself for the sake of food!
For dessert I had what the waitress was calling a guava cupcake. To me it was more like a molten cake (I keep calling it the volcano cake in my head) in the sense that it was round and had a hollow top with guava jam on top. It was alright. The cake was a little dry. The jam was good, not too sweet.
Another item worth mentioning was the ‘batida’. Batida means shaken. Usually it is some sort of juice mixed with milk or other ingredients. I didn’t order any (but I managed to steal some of course) but some at my table ordered a ‘Morir Soñando’ which means ‘die dreaming.’ That was one good drink. It is basically orange juice and milk but it is not as simple to make as it sounds. The juice has to be sweetened first and then the milk has to be poured in while the juice is being mixed otherwise it will curdle. I would definitely recommend getting the ‘morir soñando’ at Punta Cana.
Overall I would say that Punta Cana is worth a visit; do give Dominican cuisine another chance if you are not too enthused with the dishes at this particular restaurant. There aren’t many Dominican restaurants around so I can assure you that when the cravings hit you will find me there. If you have never had mofongo and the thought of it overwhelms you I would recommend starting with fried green plantains to get an idea of what this dish will taste like and to go from there.