Rayuela Brunch, NYC
Executive Chef: Máximo Tejada
Cuisine: Estilo Libre Latino, contemporary Latin American and Spanish
Price: $30-50 pp brunch
Phone: (212) 253-8840
Address: 165 Allen Street, NYC 10002
Kitchen Hours: Mon – Thur 5:30pm – 11pm / Fri – Sat 5:30pm – 12am / Sun 5pm – 10pm
Lounge Hours: Mon – Thur 5:30pm – 12am/ Fri – Sat 5:30pm – 2am / Sun 5pm – 11pm
Brunch Hours: Sat – Sun 11am – 4pm
Rayuela is a chic Latin American restaurant that serves up a large variety of eclectic dishes and exotic cocktails amidst a strikingly beautiful backdrop. The restaurant opened in 2007 in the Lower East Side and has maintained its balance of trendiness and charm ever since.
I have visited their little sister restaurant Macondo several times before, which is a more casual eatery relative to upscale Rayuela. My first impression of Macondo was slight indifference, but with each subsequent visit (and each subsequent cocktail), it has greatly risen in estimation. After attending a Yelp event at Macondo, I was given a very persuasive pitch to check out Rayuela for brunch (they had me at “bottomless cocktails”). I promised to do so and few weeks later gathered up a crew of 10+ friends for Saturday brunch.
So, the reasons for my Rayuela fandom are threefold.
First, the restaurant is beautifully serene. The space has clean lines, soft back-lighting, earthy colors, and just a “fresh” feel. It almost feels like walking into a luxury spa / zen garden. The smooth white stones adorning the bar, the gentle babbling pool beneath the stairs, and the graceful California olive tree reaching up to the skylight may have something to with that. The first floor is very inviting with its long bar and open lounge with large cozy booths in back. The second floor has flowy, opaque linen curtains dividing the tables which allows for a more intimate dining experience. There is also a bar upstairs, and overall looks to be the perfect venue for large events.
Second, I found the service to be very accommodating and gracious. They didn’t rush us and were totally cool when my party eventually grew to 20 people over the course of 3 hours (it was a looong and leisurely brunch).
Third, the weekend brunch deal is awesome: $11 for unlimited cava cocktails 11am-4pm in three tantalizing flavors: watermelon-acai, lulo-calamansi, guava-apricot. Ummmm… yes please. Like Macondo, the mixology here is exotic and exciting.
Now, onto the food. Rayuela is certainly a feast for the eyes, and the stomach was quite content as well. Rayuela means “hopscotch,” which was named after the eponymous Argentine novel by the restaurant’s bibliophile owner/chef Tejada. The Estilo Libre Latino (Freestyle Latino) cuisine does resembles hopscotch, which loosely translates to having the freedom to pick any Spanish and Latin American flavors and ingredients. There are tapas and ceviches and burgers and paellas and risottos. Sometimes when a menu is too big, I can get a bit overwhelmed as I have trouble constructing the right kind of balance for my meal. I was a bit mixed on a couple of the dishes, but I did like the majority. More importantly, for my group overall, satisfaction levels were high on our meal. I think the chef did a good job of adding finesse to this very broad concept and there are a few standout dishes.
On the brunch menu, I loved the muffin basket — since Double Crown closed, I had been seeking my new favorite bread basket and this is it! Other starter highlights for me included the Foie Gras Mousse with Chilean carica and walnuts, as well as the Squid Ink Corn Cake with lobster and shrimp. Of the brunch entrees, the corn arepa stuffed with eggs, chorizo, and melted manchego cheese was pretty stellar. Try to save room for dessert! We ended trying most of all the desserts, and while I am not usually a chocolate fan, all the chocolate-ones were amazing. I was also a big fan of the Cava, Pineapple and Saffron sorbets.
Overall, I would definitely return and most likely with a big group, because big menus like this will have something for everyone. I will need to do more menu navigating before I feel like I can tackle this restaurant in a smaller party…
COCKTAILS: $11 Open Cava Sangria 11am – 4pm
Three flavor choices: Watermelon-Acai, Lulo-Calamansi, Guava-Apricot
Unique and flavorful mixology is definitely a shared strength by both Rayuela and Macondo
Basket of assorted muffins includes corn-chocolate, chocolate & glorious morning (raisin, carrot brown bread)
Spreads include butter with roasted garlic and olives and apricot jam
Atkins friendly: no. Taste buds friendly: heck yes. My new favorite brunch bread basket, filling the void left by Double Crown!
FOR THE TABLE
Foie Gras Mousse with Chilean carica, chives, walnuts, yuca flat bread and Pedro Ximenez sherry reduction
As the ingredients would lead one to believe, this is wonderfully rich and smooth. Big fan!
Max’s Oysters: quinoa-cristed blue point oysters, poblano pepper aioli, dusted with crispy Serrano ham
My friends quite enjoyed the flavor blast. However, I am a bit biased because I prefer fresh, raw oysters with a simple vinaigrette and I don’t like fried quinoa.
Tamal Limeño: squid ink corn cake, lobster, shrimp, collard greens, rocotto pepper pisco sauce
I really loved this dish. It was unique and savory and I thought the seafood and corn was a great combination. I wanted to lick the plate clean of the rocotto pepper pisco sauce.
Eggs Benedict: crispy quinoa cake layered with Serrano ham and poached eggs, and topped with a basil poblano aioli
I adore Eggs Benedict and the salty serrano ham with the basil aioli was a fantastic addition. However, again personally not a fan of fried quinoa.
Ecuadorian Humita: soft scrambled eggs with caña de cabra cheese, smoked salmon, and spinach in a truffle-trumpet piquillo and a yellow corn tamal
My friends who ordered it quite liked it. A bit too much going on there for me.
Arepa con Huevo: corn arepa stuffed with eggs, chorizo, and melted manchego cheese
I always wanna do a little dance when I hear the word “arepa.” Sometimes I do. This was delicious.
Farmer’s Breakfast: eggs, pancakes, chorizo, toasted bread
Not completely certain this is an accurate dish labeling as I couldn’t find on the online menu but basically the pancakes had some kind of fruit component to it.
Solomillo Montes De Oca: grilled beef tenderloin, roasted fingerling peruvian potatoes, foie gras and pearl onions, topped with truffle trumpet and oyster mushrooms
Fairly certain this is the right dish. Sorry, keeping records is difficult during an open cava brunch.
Chocolate Cortázar: white, bittersweet and milk chocolate, with yerba mate ice cream garnished with chocolate and macadamia sauce
It was so hard to stop everyone from eating this before I took a photo. All the other desserts disappeared before I even whipped out my camera. Dessert vultures.
Delightful flavors such as cava, pineapple and saffron make these sorbets a winning combination