Sangre De Uva
65 North Village Ave, Rockville Centre
Sangre de Uva or “blood of the grape” is a speck of a narrow storefront spot between a haircutter and a nail salon in Rockville Centre. It was an early entry in the growing tapas and wine bar trend when it opened nearly three years ago. Patrick Joseph, the chef who presides over this unpretentious little restaurant of unadorned tables that seat about 25 and an upfront bar, churns out a large, ambitious array of international tapas. Although traditional Spanish specialties dominate the menu, Portuguese, Italian, Caribbean, Central and South American bite-size tidbits are also well represented.
Although Sangre de Uva is a modest venue, it’s also warm and convivial—two bar TVs, lantern lighting and wall nooks holding ceramics. The swift, affable waitstaff is first class and the bar hums with action most nights. There are also drink specials every night ($20 bottles of wine, 2-for-1 happy hours, $4 draft beers, $6 sangrias and a $40 prix-fixe couples menu.) The Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American wine list offers by-the-glass selections from $7 and bottles starting at $28. Big pitchers of sangria are $25. (Unfortunately they are a bit watery.)
Dinners are preceded by warm bread with a spritely olive oil, paprika, red pepper dip and end with outstanding sweets. Some of the best bites of the night involved the house made desserts.
They included a tres leche dessert in an upright shooter glass enlivened by chocolate sauce and strands of candied mango ($3.50); a silken flan of classic Spanish custard containing caramel sauce, cinnamon and an orange slice ($3.50); a rich, runny chocolate lava cake topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with berries ($6) and an empanada stuffed with peanut butter and bananas ($3.50).
Every dish looked luscious with swirls and platforms of salsa, aioli, plantains and sliced baguettes. Many, though not all, tasted as good as they looked. Six albondigas—or beef, pork and prosciutto meatballs—arrived on a thick, robust garlic, onion and goat cheese sauce ($14). Croquettes were a good way to go. Both the ham ($10) and lump crab ($15) versions displayed pleasantly crunchy surfaces and warm tender interiors.
Diners who want to be challenged by testing their tolerance for spicy dishes can try the Ropa Viejas over fried plantains, a shredded steak powered by plenty of incendiary peppers ($15). The bacon-wrapped jalapenos ($12) were so hot they blew away everybody at our table after one or two bites. Instead, opt for the milder and better camarones Iberico, a sautéed shrimp in a soothing green sauce ($14), and the abundant quesadilla ($8) with a shrimp add on ($6) that’s scattered around the nicely browned flour tortilla along with its onions, peppers and goat cheese.
Photo by Pam Deutchman / thefphoto.com