Llama Lovin’

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Just a girl who loves llamas

Ever since I met a baby llama at the Central Park Zoo’s Children’s Zoo a few years ago, I’ve been completely obsessed with the goofy, long-necked fluffy animals. And after a recent brunch at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn with my sister, I’m kind of obsessed with that too.

We started off with pan de yuca, a simple but tasty Peruvian inspired take on bread and butter. Each little bun, soft and sweet, is made from the hispanic staple and root veggie, yuca. With it, a velvety, creamy sweet honey butter of sorts, so good I could’ve spread it on rocks and happily eaten those too.

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Admittedly doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you, they make up in taste what they lack in fancy presentation.

My sister’s entree was the food envy inducing beef tenderloin stir-fry, a glorious heap of scallion topped fried eggs, french fries, plump caramelized sweet plantains, grilled onions, and juicy tenderloin medallions, all served in a bowl and drizzled with a spicy cream made from rocoto chilli peppers. Every ingredient was bursting with flavor, the plantains so sweet and soft they were almost custardy, the beef just the perfect amount of pink and juicy, and the fries pure golden, starchy goodness.

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 A gorgeous mess of breakfast deliciousness

To match my sister’s bowl-of-awesome was my amazing crispy pork shoulder sandwich and crunchy plantain chips. A thick smear of spicy mayo, a colorful, tangy red onion salsa, and my favorite surprise element, a soft, almost buttery, sweet potato wedged right in with the crispy pork shoulder, which was tender and testy, with perfectly burnt edges for that bit of charred flavor.

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A downright magical way to start a Saturday.

And because even brunch calls for dessert, we split the only one on the brunch menu, a bowl of chocolate sorbet and lucuma cream, made from a Peruvian fruit with a mapley, butterscotch flavor. To top if off were wafer-like crisps made from cappuccino foam. A mix of flavors and textures and now I have a whole new fruit that I love! Success all around!

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Don’t let looks fool you, this dessert is a solid TEN.

Since originally writing this a couple of days ago I’ve also been back for dinner and drinks and I can tell you, my llama love is stronger than ever. Once one of my favorite animals, now one of my favorite restaurants.

Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

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Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

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So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

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Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

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