Lechonera La Isla

Walking around the streets of Harlem while trying to find the Puerto Rican restaurant, we had no idea that we had walked by it (probably because we were expecting it to be a little bigger.) On the display in the front of the restaurant were freshly made blood sausages, amarillitos and lechón, put there to open the appetites of people passing by. The size of the place and the fact that there weren’t any tables inside made us reconsider our decision to eat there until our Puerto Rican friend, Michelle encouraged us to go inside.
As we took our places at the bar stools, Michelle ordered for us. The plates of lechón with arroz con gandulez, which is pork with special baked yellow rice, were placed in front of us. What’s special about Puerto Rican food is that it is compromised of ordinary ingredients cooked with extraordinary sauces, making amazing dishes. This applies for every dish aside from the blood sausage, which was what I had. The blood sausage is usually filled with pork meat mixed with herbs, onions, spices and blood, and all of these are put inside the intestines of a pig.
As a Turk who does not even eat Kokoreç in her home country, I was not happy when I heard about the intestines! A 30 cm piece of the whole sausage was cut for the five of us and I took a small piece of it. Apparently we were supposed to suck the insides first and then eat the skin.
The sausage was hot and did not have a very strong smell, thank God. The skin of the sausage wasn’t very thick. The insides did not have a pretty look. The color of the blood did not help with my urge to throw the fork away. My first thoughts taking a bite off the sausage were on its salty and meaty taste. Before it reached my taste buds, I actually enjoyed it. I have to be honest, I’m not the one for exotic new tastes, and bloody intestines aren’t really for me. But overall, I could not stop myself from eating the pork and the yellow rice with beans. I especially loved how they had many different sauces. The service was fast and fulfilling. The cashier (also the waiter) even suggested some dishes for us. The music made us move in our seats and we literally got up from our stools and danced to the lively Puerto Rican beat.
I loved the little restaurant, the service, the atmosphere, and the music. Five people ate for 35$, so it was not expensive at all.
I would strongly suggest Lechonera La Isla for those who love new tastes!
By Alara Ozsan

Photos by: Alara Ozsan

Photo by: WiseGeek