I love that HVRW gives me a good reason to go out and enjoy a new or favorite restaurant. Just like my fellow guest bloggers, I’m looking for unique combinations, new flavors, and simply a good meal, but what is even more important to me is consistency. If I fall in love with a dish, I want that dish to be just as good on my next visit, and the next and so on. This is Patrice Costa, and I can honestly tell you that Ramiro’s 954 in Mahopac does it right each and every time.
I’m going to mention right up front that Ramiro’s 954 has become our “local go-to restaurant”. My husband and I love the warm and inviting atmosphere, the action of the open kitchen, the friendly staff, and the authentic Latin American cuisine. But it’s the consistency of our dining experiences that keeps us coming back, and our HVRW dinner last Thursday evening was just as expected – AMAZING!
[Note from Liz: Normally we don’t have two HVRW reviews of the same restaurant, but I dropped the ball on this one. So the fact that both reviews are positive is saying something about Ramiro’s consistency!]
We were greeted enthusiastically by chef Ramiro’s wife, Jan, who handles front of house. In fact, I’ve watched her in the dining room many times, and she is the epitome of hospitality.
We decided to sit in the main dining room, near the lively bar, with a view into the open kitchen. There is an upstairs dining room too which is a nice alternative if you are in the mood for a quiet dinner. Jan not only offered us the HVRW menu but the regular menu as well, and then even tempted us with some interesting specials. I was glad to see that the HVRW menu featured a good selection straight from their regular menu, which would give first time diners an excellent sampling.
Since my husband and I were in a real summer mood last Thursday night, with temps hitting almost 80 degrees during the day, we couldn’t wait to order a pitcher of Ramiro’s white sangria. A combination of white wine, orange and pineapple juice, peach schnapps, fresh fruit and a little Latin magic. What a great way to start out our meal!
As we sipped our sangria, we enjoyed the house “butter”, a unique combo of cream cheese, sour cream, butter and roasted garlic, on warm rolls.
For appetizer choices, the Sopa de Elote (corn soup) made with corn, veggie broth, leeks, and poblano peppers is one of my usual starters because I love that it gets its creamy goodness mostly from the sweet corn. But, since it wasn’t exactly soup weather, I decided to have the Empanadas de Picadillo instead.
These are lightly fried turnovers stuffed with much deliciousness like ground beef mixed with a savory/sweet onion, garlic, pepper, olives, and raisins. My picture above really doesn’t capture the essence of dish (darn restaurant lighting!), so I thought this picture from my culinary cohort and fellow guest blogger, Margaret Rizzuto would help.
Although I’ve enjoyed these flaky pastries before, they seemed to have a little more of a kick than I remembered. The drizzle of sweet chipotle cream was a pleasant accompaniment to the flavor packed empanadas.
My husband, John, had the Platano Relleno which is a plantain filled with smoked chicken topped with cream, avocado sauce and queso fresco (a fresh Mexican cheese similar in taste and texture to feta cheese).
The smokiness of the tender chicken was a unique contrast to the sweetness of the banana-like plantain. In addition, the cream and avocado sauces completely elevated this dish.
All the entrees were quite appealing like the traditional Arroz con Pollo (roasted chicken breast and tomato rice) or the vegetarian version of their seriously good Paella made with saffron rice, zucchini, asparagus, cauliflower, mushroom, and peas. I wanted to try the Churrasco a la Parrilla which is the dish that our daughter, Briana, always gets when we go to Ramiro’s. Now I understand why she never wants to share it.
The grilled skirt steak is charred just enough on the outside to impart a smokey crust and the inside is all meaty tender goodness cooked to a beautiful pinky medium rare. It’s usually topped with a morita chile sauce, but I asked for the milder tomatillo avocado sauce (can we just rename it “Briana’s sauce” since it was her idea to switch it?). Accompanying the steak are caramelized onions, green beans and rice; but it’s not just any rice, it’s fluffy, buttery and a little sweet from the smattering of corn kernels. We’ve tried begging for the recipe, but chef Ramiro won’t give up this family secret.
John had the lighter Tilapia con Yucca. The tilapia fillet was flaky and moist, topped with a silky habanero-horseradish sauce. But it was the uncomplicated mixture of yucca (think potato), red peppers, and spinach combined into what I would dub a Latin hash of sorts that kept me reaching over to steal more than a few bites.
It was difficult, but I managed to leave room for dessert. Flan for me, please! It was beautifully silky with just enough golden caramel to sweeten the custard. I’m quite the purist when it comes to flan, and I didn’t think the chocolate stick or whipped cream was necessary at all (just more flan would have been fine for me).
John was in a chocolate mood and chose the Torta de Chocolate. Although it’s just a simple flourless cake, the warm melted chocolate which oozed out with the first forkful would satisfy any chocolate craving.
As we sipped the last of our sangria, we realized how lucky we are to have Ramiro’s as our neighborhood place. Our advice to you is, at the very least, come for the sangria, but absolutely stay for the food – you will be happy you did!