Dining Out: Latino cuisine with gusto
BY MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK AND ANNA SPIVAK
Those craving authentic Dominican dishes need look no further than Sunset Park’s International Restaurant, a smorgasbord of traditional Spanish-American cuisine, famous for its Dominican breakfast as well as its ethnic twist on the classics.
“We do a little bit of everything,” said manager Llamil Nuñez, calling the decades-old eatery a “Dominican diner.”
And it’s one that’s all in the family, said Nuñez.
“We’ve been here since 1984, and my dad’s been in this business his whole life,” said the son-turned-father, originally from Long Island, but raised in Sunset Park as a child of the family business, “and I love being a part of it. The best part about working here is all the people who come here to celebrate – whether it be their birthday or an anniversary – and, working here, you get to be a part of that indirectly.”
We sampled some of Nuñez’ personal favorites – from the mouth-watering Arroz Con Pollo (a generous plate of perfectly cooked yellow rice mixed with peppers, spices, cilantro and, of course, succulent strips of pulled chicken), priced at just $8.99 a plate, to the breaded-to-perfection baked clam appetizer, priced at just $7.79 for a six shells.
Our personal favorites were the flaky, flavorful empanadas ($1.79 apiece). We indulged in one beef and one chicken empanada, both of which packed a powerful punch. Small on the outside but jam-packed with meats and spices on the inside, each empanada had us craving seconds.
For our entrees, we tried a bit of all the best.
The Camarofongo, or Shrimp Mofongo – a house specialty – was as delicately sculpted as it was generously portioned. The towering centerpiece of fried plantain was as filling as it was flavorful, doused in a red house sauce and sprinkled with deliciously fresh shrimp. Appropriately priced at $14.99 a plate for five shrimp, and $17.49 a plate for seven shrimp, a Camarofongo can be shared amongst eaters, as it takes them out of Brooklyn and to Puerto Rico where Mofongo was born.
Then came the skirt steak – advertised on the menu as Sirloin Steak a La Brasa ($14.95) – a masterpiece at medium-well that kept us coming back for more, followed by a tended-to and tender pork chop (Nuñez’s second favorite menu item, trumped only by the Camarofongo). The pork chop comes broiled (Chuleta a La Parrilla, $10.45) or fried (Chuleta De Cerdo Frita, $7.45) and the broiled – the manager’s preference – had us scraping the bone for more.
On the side, we sampled plantains two ways — Platanos Verdes (green plantains) and Platanos Maduros (sweet plantains). With two complete opposite tastes, International Restaurant proves that – even with the same dish – they can please just about any palette. We favored the Platanos Maduros, but you can blame that on our sweet tooth.
Finally, we indulged in a bowl of International’s house-made flan ($2.29). A flawless balance of sweet and refreshing, this thick and creamy dessert was the icing on top of an impressing meal.
4408 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220
Monday-Sunday, 6 a.m.-midnight
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