Address: 109 South Sixth St., near Bedford Ave., Williamsburg (718) 782-2333
Dinner: Sun.-Thur., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-midnight. Closed Sundays.
Cuisine: Contemporary Latin.
Vibe: Vibrant Spanish villa.
Occasion: Neighborhood dinner; Group dinner.
Don’t miss dish: Pinchos de res (cubed filet mignon); escolar in blood orange sauce.
Price: Appetizers, $7-12; entrees, $15-21; desserts, $7-8.
These days, there are many temptations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I
learned this en route to Viñas, a new Latin American restaurant in this
First, there’s Peter Luger. The aroma
of its butter-sopped porterhouses wafts out onto the streets.
Literally. If you can resist this seduction, there’s yet another: the
lure of Dressler, with its romantic portrait window and sophisticated
Though nearly impossible to refuse both
temptations on my first visit, I persevered toward a quiet street with
few signs of life. Then, there was the unexpected sight of a vibrant
tile-topped bar, visible through the window. As you make your way
inside Viñas, you’ll feel as if you’ve just crossed the East River and
ended up in Spain. It’s decorated with terra-cotta floors,
leather-trimmed benches and salvaged wood tables.
But the more
unexpected discovery is the food. The menu covers more territory than
its decor: It not only ambles through Spain, but also Argentina, Peru
and Puerto Rico. The chef, Henry Lopez Jr., is Puerto Rican. Other than
a six-month stint as a line cook at Ola, Lopez has spent little time
training in prominent kitchens.
Yet, if you tasted his expertly
poached escolar, you’d never know it. The snowy-white hunk is sauced
with a blood orange mojo, and sits above a crunchy mountain of coconut
rice. Even a swine snob would find his braised pork belly fetching. Its
crackly skin gives way to truffle honey-tinged meat that’s fanned
around a yucca cake. The yucca cake (yucafongo) is deep-fried and
stuffed with squid – an entree unto itself.
It’s gutsy to
peddle meats so close to the legendary Peter Luger. But Viñas takes a
decidedly Argentinean approach where steaks are concerned. Juicy cubes
of filet mignon are skewered and served with an anchovy- and
tuna-spiked red pepper sauce that’s a tangy hybrid between chimichurri
and tonnato sauce. There’s a garlicky skirt steak and a flavorful trio
of lamb chops placed over shredded collard greens and a side of crusty
The lamb chops didn’t arrive with an entourage
of servers. They were brought to the table by the chef himself, who
sometimes makes deliveries. Viñas is a small-scale production. General
manager Cliff Robinson plays the part of server and, more impressively,
the sommelier. He has designed a sizable and affordable roster of wines
by the glass (15 whites and 13 reds).
In addition to
full-flavored meats, Viñas offers intriguing empanadas and ceviches,
including spicy shrimp invigorated by Peruvian chilies and roasted
tomatoes as well as kalamansi-marinated scallops.
restaurant’s shortcomings somehow make it more endearing. There are
missteps, like a red snapper ceviche in an excessively sweet
passionfruit sauce, and some comically small dishes: a miniature quail
and a marble-sized nibble of goat cheese in a guava shell for dessert.
Considering the size of the staff, dessert is an afterthought.
dining room is scattered with a few locals and friends of the chef or
owner Mike Jaramillo. Jaramillo has amassed a tiny empire in
Williamsburg, which also includes Sweet Farm Bakery, a Maxim gym and
another gym that will open just next door to the restaurant in
Viñas’ inventive Latin fare is still relatively undiscovered here. It shouldn’t be.