|The small space, tucked in at the corner of 3rd & Willow in Hoboken, offers a vibrant atmosphere away from the commotion of Washington Street.|
Zafra is a gem of an authentic Pan-Latino restaurant that I found in Hoboken about a year ago on a long walk from my apartment to Washington Street (the main avenue with all of the bars and restaurants in Hoboken). The food is good, the staff is friendly, and the dining room is always lively. None of which is harmed by the fact that it's BYO (Daily Life Long Lesson for Anyone Who Cooks at Home: alcohol can easily mask you cooking flaws - drink up).
|One of the many vibrant pieces that give Zafra its wonderful character.|
We started with mini empanadas filled with picadillo (picadillo is ground beef cooked with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and olives) and Quesadilla de Hongos - a corn masa turnover filled with mushrooms, jalapenos, and fresh cheese, topped with a salsa verde and more cheese. The former was pretty good and definitely something new to my palate. A little stronger seasoning would have helped but all of that cheese didn't hurt.
|The Quesadilla de Hongos is a far cry from your flour tortillas, jack cheese, and chicken made on your George Foreman grill.|
|Beautiful mini empanadas with addicting cilantro sauce lurking in the background|
|An authentic Cuban, straight out of Hoboken.|
My mother went with Camarones de paplanta - shrimp and ripe plantains in a vanilla chipotle sauce. The shrimp were cooked well, the tomato based sauce added slight heat but enough vanilla to keep my mother curious and the spoon from ever resting on the plate, and the deeply roasted plantains were a perfect counterpoint to the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce.
|Shrimp and plantains in a vanilla chipotle sauce - it all works somehow.|
|Steak, roasted garlic, caramelized onions - need I say more?|