Many of us have resolved to temper our carb dependence lately, which largely translates to a staunch avoidance of gluten. Easy enough to do, nowadays, considering how many diet-savvy restaurants have quickly fallen into line. But for diners whose issues are more than waistline-related, eating out remains a tricky proposition — navigating gluten-bearing roadblocks on a menu, that are way less obvious than bowls of pasta or stir-fries laden with soy.
That’s where spots like Oovina come in, taking out all the guesswork (along with all the gluten) from everything from starters to drinks to desserts. Luckily, it’s not quite as abstemious as it sounds; styled as a Latin tapas bar, it’s a natural direction for this Hell’s Kitchen eatery, mostly focused on a cuisine that has little to no use for wheat flour. That means, you’ll find crocks of citrus-zapped Shrimp Ceviche, paired with excellent, housemade corn chips, or five different types of Tacos, stuffed with everything from pulled chicken to sautéed tofu to mango salsa-puddled skirt steak.
But since the average wheat-freer has likely eaten a lifetimes worth of tortillas already, best to test the kitchen’s mettle with a few, harder to come by options. Consider the Cassava Gnocchi; springy dumplings formed with the starchy tuber, yucca, then pebbled in bacon and slicked in a savory parmesan gravy. There are even slider-sized Tortas (sandwiches) available, propped on cheese buns with a convincing crumb. Granted, they disintegrate faster than your average roll, but still taste great cradling cutlets of ancho-rubbed pork loin, dripping with pepperoncini aioli and snowflakes of shaved idiazabal cheese.
And Oovina has stepped up its game still further with a recently launched brunch; i.e., the meal that owes so much to sweets, baked goods and various pastries. There’s a Breakfast Taco here, too — filled with scrambled eggs or chorizo — but the rarer birds are French Toast (sticky with goat cheese, raisin chutney and warm caramel drizzle) and triangles of Tres Leches Waffle mounded with cream cheese frosting and mixed berry compote, which, save for a slightly diminished fluff-factor, would probably get a passing grade from even the most unabashed gluten enthusiast. Add on a leisurely morning’s worth of bottomless Mimosas, Bellinis, Margaritas and Bloody Marys, and health concerns of any sort go straight out the window. It may be geared towards a GF audience, but Oovina gets that booze is the very essence of brunch.