The bottom line: Great service but I’m confused about the menu!
Before you start reading my review on LC 21 I’ll start by saying that I am a little biased in regards to Latin American food. I grew up eating all types of dishes from different countries all over South America and the Caribbean. Of course, this being one of the many benefits of growing up in NYC and having first hand access to all types of cuisines. This perhaps is one of the things that I mainly miss about “The City”. The availability and acceptance of these dishes and places serving Latin fusion meals all around. Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte has come a long way from just having the typical Mexican restaurant (if in doubt check out Ana’s visit to Punta Cana). So when I found out that there was a new Latin cuisine restaurant opening up around work I was more than excited!
I went to LC 21 not sure what to expect. One of the things that I noticed going in was the tropical music coming out through the speakers. Nothing like taking your mind of work like something to groove to…even if it’s while you are seating down! 😉 After taking my seat the first thing I did was dive right into the menu. Much to my surprise I felt that I was looking at standard offerings as opposed to what I was expecting. Let’s say pasta dishes and sandwiches were not really what I thought I would get at a Latin place. Some of the offerings that did stood out to me were the ceviche, empanadas, Quito potato and cheese soup, Salvadorian tortilla soup, and others. I feel that the dishes that were Latin where under the “House Specialty” sections.
Not sure exactly what to order I took my time and finally ended up settling for the lunch option of the roasted pork with fried yuca and a side of Salvadorian tortilla soup. I was also highly anticipating the dishes that my coworkers would get since this was the first time that they were visiting the restaurant as well. I do have to commend the service of the restaurant though. The staff was probably one of the most attentive that I have come across throughout my journey of writing for the blog. Something that really took me by surprise was that the chef himself came out to our table with an order of empanadas on the house. It was a mixture of cheese, beef, and chicken empanadas with Ecuadorian salsa, and Uruguayan and Argentinian chimichurri sauce. The empanadas were amazing! I didn’t have the cheese one but I did have the chicken and beef. My favorite part had to be the filling of both as they were flavorful and well seasoned. The beef empanada had ground beef filling mixed with onions and other condiments. The chicken empanadas had small pieces of chicken mixed with potato and seasoning. Out of the sauces my favorite one was the Uruguayan one. It was mildly spicy and was made up of parsley, onion, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice. The lime juice and spiciness of the sauce were a great enhancement to the flavor of the empanada fillings. My only complain about the empanadas was the dough. The dough was flour based so it felt heavy as compared to empanadas that are made of plantain. But in the grand scheme of things I felt that was only a minute detail.
So now as for my main meal. I started it with the Salvadorian tortilla soup. I was warned that the soup was extremely spicy and indeed it was. Although not sure of all the components I can tell you that it was tomato based with some type of meat stock. As much as I like spicy food I could only handle some of it and left the rest for later. The crunchiness of the tortilla strips were great however. It provided some of that extra texture that made the dish even more interesting. If you don’t like spicy food I would say you might want to stay away from this soup. An alternative is the potato and cheese soup which my other coworkers ordered and liked a lot. As for my main dish I’ll start with the fried yuca. The yuca was cut into paper thin strips and deep fried. I’ll give props to the chef as this is a very innovative concept that I had not seen before. Actually I would have been so about this idea! My only gripe with the fried yuca is that it was extremely oily. I am not sure if it’s the consistency of the yuca (cassava) what would lead for it to become this way when deep fried but for me it was a bit of a turn off. The roasted pork was seasoned and topped with a special salsa composed of onions and bits of pineapple. The pork was not bad and it had little burnt edges where much of the dry rub they used was concentrated. These edges were probably my favorite part! The other pieces were a bit bland and this is where the sauce came in to provide more flavor. Was it a bad dish? No. But it wasn’t my absolute favorite dish ever either.
Also pictured above are the dishes my coworkers ordered (I am so proud of them for trying out different types of food with me!!) Two of them ordered the salmon. One was pan seared and one was grilled. Both of them said that the salmon exceeded their expectations and although at first they thought the salmon would be dry it actually was juicy. The other plates you see are the Roasted chicken and the Pollo Estofado (stewed chicken). Overall their verdict was that it was a good lunch.
What can I say about LC21? I love the fact that places like this are appearing around Charlotte. It gives me hope that the culinary scene might start to pick up along with the rest of the major U.S. cities. Of course it doesn’t mean that things will change overnight and LC 21 is only a baby step to this. I hope that the restaurant takes more risks in regards to their menu options and starts showing what Latin American cuisine is really all about! I believe that they need to revisit their menu and switch things up a little to give the customer more bang for their buck. Service wise however they were great so I wouldn’t change anything about that. They also gave my coworker some tres leches cake because it was his birthday! Definitely something cool in my book. In the meantime I’ll be anxiously awaiting until another Latin Fusion restaurant hopefully opens up 🙂