(631) 509-4848, Port Jefferson
La PaRrilla was a surprise. It opened quietly last March where Costa De Espagna was. Owned by Vince Grillo, a first time restaurateur, it was at various times billed as a Spanish-American, Spanish-Latin American and Spanish-Mexican restaurant. Chef Juan Alvarez was described as a veteran kitchen commander but I couldn’t find out where he was previously. I didn’t come across any La Parrilla Restaurant reviews in the daily newspapers that cover the Island nor hear any word-of-mouth about it.
All of which caused hesitation when I found out about the restaurant, even though I was curious about what I would find there. That was because it’s a new restaurant, with a first-time owner that was changing its identity. It probably hadn’t been reviewed and was rarely—if ever—mentioned by foodies. I thought there must be a reason for this absence of visibility and recognition. It seemed as though a visit to La Parrilla (“the grill”) was in order.
Despite a few initial reservations (a basic nondescript dining room and warm but dry bread), La Parrilla proved to be a rather good restaurant with large portions of interesting, tasty food at manageable middle-of-the-road prices. (The Monday through Wednesday prix fixe three-course dinner with a glass of wine for $28.95 seems especially attractive.)
Speaking of outstanding deals, the lush, rich shrimp bisque for $4.95 couldn’t be better. Its shrimp broth, laced with a dab of cream and sprinkled with some tender, medium-size crustaceans is served in a large soup bowl, not the expected little cup. The large $11.95 version must be a meal in itself. The ensalada con aguacate is a dinner plate-size salad with an eye-catching fanned out display of avocados and unannounced but welcome mangoes surrounding a clump of mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, strawberries and cucumbers in a raspberry vinaigrette ($10.95). The remaining two starters were rather standard empanadas stuffed with beef, potato and rice accompanied by avocado and picante salsa ($9.95) and alochofas a La Parrilla. The latter is fresh grilled artichoke hearts powered by noteworthy garlic and lemon-infused mayo dip ($11.95).
Main events, with a choice of one or two sides are nicely distributed among fish, meat and chicken possibilities. The baby back ribs in a tangy barbecue sauce deliver the required soft, fall-away texture ($20.95) and the grouper filet perched on some light green sauce was as fresh as if it had just been caught off the Florida coast ($18.95). Pollo Espanol featured two thin slabs of moist chicken breast under a tangle of mushrooms, peppers, chorizo, onions and green beans in a brown demi-glace ($18.95). The hands down entrée leader was camarones rellenos; Jumbo shrimp stuffed with and resting on a crabmeat and baby shrimp mash atop a bed of rice enhanced by nicely nuanced lobster sauce ($22.95). A pitcher of powerful red sangria that’s sweet but not cloying is appropriate with these dishes and it worked beautifully ($25.50).
Among the housemade desserts (all $7.95) was a firm, silken flan; a tiramisu that’s neither Spanish nor Latin American but was particularly satisfying; very ordinary fried ice cream and a towering layered chocolate mousse cake.
Photo by Paul Kim / thefphoto.com