Mon-Thu, 5:30pm-11pm; Fri, 5:30am-midnight; Sat, 11am-4pm and 5:30pm-midnight; Sun, 11am-4pm and 5pm-10pm
F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
It’s hard to know exactly what kind of restaurant Rayuela means to be, which seems to be how the exuberant chef, Máximo Tejada, likes it. The location, on an anonymous stretch of Allen Street just below Houston, is scruffy and a little marginal, and the name, as explained by our tattooed waiter from Texas, means “hopscotch” in Spanish, a reference to Tejada’s penchant for grabbing culinary references from around Latin America and the world. There are numerous exotic cocktails available at the bar, some of them made with quince, guava, and even rose petals, and many of them delicious. There are also twelve appetizers, thirteen entrées, and a dizzying variety of seviches to choose from. The best of these is called “Seven Powers of the Sea,” a bracing agglomeration made with seven kinds of seafood floating in a vinegary tomatillo sauce. Did I mention, also, that the walls at Rayuela are dotted with river stones from Peru and that there’s a real live olive tree (from California) growing in the downstairs lounge area, the gnarled branches of which spread up to the swanky dining room on the second floor? Not that this should distract you from Tejada’s eclectic cooking, which is quite good more often than it is bad. Among the quite-good dishes: the fried-plantain “mofongo” balls stuffed with pork, a cool wheel of paella threaded with fresh lobster and scallops, the creamy Ecuadoran seafood stew called surena, and that Afro-Brazilian specialty fufu (mashed plantains or yams), mingled with spicy shrimp and chorizo and decorated with plumes of fried plantains. Among the bad ones: a sludgy duck breast marinated in sugarcane, a tired portion of overcooked crispy pork, and virtually all the desserts, many of which seemed to have been flown in from some random industrial cafeteria on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.Ideal Meal
Ceviche tasting, spicy shrimp with fufu or paella, cocktails.