On Essex Street, in NYC’s Lower East Side, a hip taste of Uruguay awaits. A traditional and entirely homemade menu of “Uruguay Natural” haute cuisine is what Charrúa – our top 2016 choice for South American food in LES – offers day and night. With brunch, lunch and dinner menus, every dish at Charrúa is made with love, and a whole lot of sabor latino.
Named after the common Uruguayan slang term “charrúa” – which is what natives tend to call each other, especially when in sport-related activities – the restaurant is a true expression of cultural authenticity, making it a breath of fresh air for the New York crowd. Using only fresh and natural ingredients from local farms and family-owned businesses, Charrúa brings Uruguayan food culture to NYC with its farm-to-table concept and modern approach to traditional South American dining.
A typical Uruguayan diet consists of things like churrasco, chivitos, beef empanadas, and asados, but the country’s cuisine is also influenced by the Mediterranean cooking styles of Spanish and Italian immigrants that have populated Uruguay in recent years; therefore, pasta, milanesa, meatballs, and chorizo are also part of everyday family meals. For one of our dishes at Charrúa, we enjoyed a cooked salmon atop a bed of couscous – the Mediterranean influence – with steamed broccoli and a lime wedge: delicioso.
As many of you may know, Latin culture (no matter the country) has its unbreakable traditions, such as sitting family-style at the table with all your relatives in order to enjoy a meal – something that is done three times a day, of course, and something that Charrúa mimics with its cozy, intimate candle-lit setting. It is also typical to eat bread and some sort of sauce with every meal: Mexicans like salsa verde, Argentinians like Chimichurri (well, everyone likes Chimichurri), Cubans like garlic sauce and Uruguayans like Escabeche. Of course, Latin America is a melting pot of salsas, so food-wise, anything is possible anywhere. For our meal at Charrúa we had a side of Escabeche with bread and steak with Chimichurri, so there you go. In classic latino style we also drank two glasses of wine, the white with the delicious spinach empanada appetizers, and the red with salmon cous cous. Both wines were from Uruguay and surprisingly very rich in flavor.
For desert, we tried the Uruguayan “chocolate sausage”, no, it was not a real sausage. The sweet milky treat was more-or-less a chocolate-covered cookie topped with creamy dulce de leche. Seemingly simple but life-changing, this rich chocolate pastry was the perfect ending to a delightful Uruguayan meal.
Venture over to the LES and treat your tastebuds to a haute Charrúa meal.