The sound of traditional Puerto Rican music fills our ears as we enter the miniature aisle of the Harlem eatery and sit on the bar stools. Displays of the Puerto Rican landscape and posters of the Yankees cover the filthy tiled walls. The eatery is casual and homely and we are immediately greeted by a large Latin-American man. The sounds of cars whizzing past and loud construction work echoes throughout the kitchen. Pitbull’s ‘manos arriba’ (Throw your Hands Up) plays on the speakers and the eatery soon becomes a small Puerto Rican dance party as we jive to the song. As soon as we order, the food is instantly served onto the concrete bar table. We say ‘buenas tardes’ before eating away at the scrumptious food while bopping to the music. I start with the yellow rice and the glistening crispy pork. It is drizzled in sour yellow vinaigrette sauce which tastes like a fusion of sugar and lemon and looks like lime juice. A delectable sensation of meat and rice is created with the green beans, rice and pork eaten together. Each bite of rice feels like bubbles bursting into thin air, giving off a flavor of Puerto Rican spice and sea salt. I devour my hunger with the dish and go outside to the food window to pick out my next dish. An interesting pastry catches my eye and I soon discover that it is called an empanella. It looks like a fluffy yellow cloud with many treasures and riches hiding inside it. The pastry oozes with succulent mouthwatering flavor from the soft curry mince. It smells fresh out of the oven and gives a whiff of my grandma’s homemade cooking. The rough curly edge of the pastry with the crispy and crunchy texture makes me want to have another one. I eagerly go back to the food window after finishing my empanella and decide to go for something sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth. I pick out a squishy yellow oval-shaped dessert called a plantain. I feel the sweetness of the fried banana cooling my tingling throat from the spicy meat in the empanella. The pleasantness of the sweet banana fused with the saltiness of the fried skin makes an exotic yet pleasant smell. After enjoying the meal, we finish and pay leaving the authentic Puerto Rican music and homeliness of the eatery behind before deciding on a date for our next meal at Lechonera La Isla.
By Natalie Ho