Guest post by Angela Zou
Walking down West 10th Street, I almost missed the entrance of De Santos, confusing it for a private residence. The restaurant is set inside a beautiful brownstone that boasts prior residents the likes of Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan.
Its owners are Luis Miguel Amutio, Alex Gonzales, and Sebastian Gonella. Alex Gonzalez is from the Mexican rock band Maná, which I found interesting since the menu is a mix of contemporary Italian and American cuisine. It is said that Alex’s goal is not only to serve guests delicious food but also provide equally enticing stimulation aurally and visually. The executive chef is Angel Vela, who formerly worked at the esteemed Pastis and Waverly Inn.
On certain days, the restaurant apparently projects movies onto the white washed brick walls of its European style patio in the back. Personally, I thought the music playing in the restaurant was too loud, which made it difficult to hear my dinner companions’ conversations.
The decor of the place was beautifully rustic, a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of concrete jungle, just outside its doors. There’s no shortage of exposed brick, hanging ferns, and rich hardwood floors. Yet, De Santos was no different from most other New York restaurants when promptly at around 7:30PM, the dim lighting was further dimmed. I suppose it is supposed to promote a romantic, intimate atmosphere but generally, all it does is irk me. We live in the 21st century; I don’t want to barely see my food by candlelight when there is ample electricity available. But that’s neither here nor there.
For appetizers, we were treated to Beef Carpaccio with Gnocchi and Truffle Cream, Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, and Duck Tacos. I don’t think I’ve ever had truffle before but to my savage palate, it smelled and tasted a lot like Gorgonzola cheese. I think the gnocchi was probably the best thing that I had all evening. Granted, it completely overpowered the carpaccio which I thought was forgettable. But I’ve also never had carpaccio before so I had no prior raw beef experiences to compare it to. While I’ve heard the raves about the mac and cheese, I have to say that I think I’ve had better (ahem, S’Mac, ahem). Finally, the duck tacos were pretty refreshing compared to the other two heavier appetizers but the gnocchi still won hands down. It was just so creamy and pungent. It was definitely the best gnocchi I’ve ever had since I feel like most times, gnocchi is either the wrong texture or just simply bland.
For my main course, I chose the New York Strip Steak. Now, I am pretty sure when I read the menu that it said that the dish came with fries, which I was less than excited about, since I’ve been trying to eat more leafy greens. So imagine my happy surprise when my steak was served with spinach and mushrooms. The steak was well-cooked but nothing noteworthy. And the portion size was enough for two meals; I could only eat about half. The mushrooms were very tasty while the spinach was on the saltier side for my taste. I was extremely confused about the sauce that came with the steak. All in all, I wasn’t very impressed by my entree and it could’ve been that I had simply chosen the wrong item off the menu because it appears that my dinner mates had chosen some delicious looking and, according to them, tasting seafood entrees – scallops, salmon, and sea bass. Ah mea culpa.
Finally, it was time for dessert and this is perhaps where this restaurant finds redemption from my lackluster entree. We were served Chocolate Lava Cake and Crepes with Dulce de Leche. The cake was oozing warm chocolate. Paired with the ice cream, it did this delightful little dance on my tongue before hitting just the right spot in my stomach. The crepes were also excellent and not as sweet as I had feared when I initially heard dulce de leche being discussed. Again, the warm gooey substance mixed with the cold refreshing ice cream was just perfect.
While I am not sure I would come back here for dinner again, I am intrigued by their brunch menu: there’s unlimited brunch for $34 – which include a dish plus unlimited drinks for 2 hours. Now, being a completely lightweight, I’m not sure if I can take full advantage of this offer. But it will certainly a selling point for my friends I’m sure.
And if you do decide to go, I think it would be better to go during warmer weather, when the patio turns al fresco instead of being covered.