The Power of Two
A Port Chester eatery offers fare from both sides of the Atlantic.
Patrias, whose name means “countries” in Spanish, is a relative newcomer to Port Chester, and its menu, fittingly, represents local South American flavor informed by upscale influences. In this solo venture by Chef Mariano Aznar, the homey flavors of Peru are presented alongside the classic cuisine of Spain.
Chef Aznar, formerly of Solera in Irvington, offers an extensive tapas menu, and it is with these small dishes that Aznar, a Spaniard, showcases his best cooking. A tapas classic, the tortilla Espanola, or Spanish omelet, was gently browned, full of hearty chunks of potatoes, and served with a dollop of thick garlic mayonnaise. A starter plate of five Spanish cheeses presented three standouts: the tangy, full-flavored manchego; a mild, creamy tetilla; and a smoky, rich idiazabal, a sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region. A couple slices of tomato-bread accompanied the plato campero, a selection of delicious meat slices—Serrano ham, salami, and chorizo. The only clunker on the plate was a too-salty dried pork loin.
Among the many seafood tapas choices, grilled sardines were a briny treat. A poor man’s fish, the sardines were grilled simply in pimenton olive oil, the crispy skin charred to perfection. If you are dining with a group, a must-try is the surprisingly generous Catalan-style stew with dozens of plump, fresh mussels. The accompanying sofrito, or sauce, of garlic, onions, and tomatoes, makes a secondary dish as an ideal dip for crusty bread.
An even more popular dish in Peru is ceviche pescados, raw seafood partially “cooked” by a marinade of acidic citrus juice and spices. Here, a ceviche of tilapia was flecked with nuggets of roasted Peruvian corn (cancha), which gave crunch and textural contrast to the tender, bite-sized morsels of fish. It’s hard to imagine a lighter, fresher, more appropriate meal on a hot summer day.
EntrÃ©es, whether Spanish or Peruvian, yielded mixed results. The milk, cheese, and yellow-pepper sauce made an encore appearance on pescado a lo macho, a disappointing entrÃ©e special overloaded with salt. The grilled fish was drowned with sauce and the light sprinkle of mixed shrimp, scallops, and calamari similarly lost at sea. Two other entrÃ©e selections, bistec a lo pobre (a large pounded beefsteak with french fries and fried eggs) and chicarron de pescado (fried fish with a Peruvian salad of onions and tomatoes), were akin to diner meals. Skip them in favor of the far superior fideua de mariscos, a nest of saffron noodles served in a skillet that held the flavor of every last bit of seafood. Two Italian-influenced dishes, a meat
cannelloni immersed in creamy bÃ©chamel, or Peruvian-style spaghetti in a pesto-like basil-and-spinach sauce, are good bets, as are bright-red, spicy-sweet piquillo peppers stuffed with codfish mousse.
Desserts? In two words: custard or mousse. The best? The crema Catalana, a creamy custard treat, prepared with milk instead of heavy cream.
Servers are speedy and pleasant, though a few queries about ingredients resulted in befuddled looks and, at several points, visits to the kitchen for answers. Drinking wine with meals is a must in Spain, and so, too, at Patrias. A deep ruby-colored, oaky Vega Sindoa 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo blend should put you in the proper mood for tapas and good conversation, the specialty of the house.
35 1/2 N. Main St., Port Chester
Mon., Tues., and Thurs. 11:30-10 pm
Fri. through Sun. 11:30 am-11 pm