Don't let the name fool you on this one. While I love the concept of being able to share small plates, I usually leave a tapas restaurant feeling completely unsatisfied or satisfied, but having spent way too much money. At Poco, where the philosophy is still all about sharing, there is actually nothing little about these Latin American dishes. This new restaurant fits right into Alphabet City with its laid back atmosphere and affordable prices. You can actually average a plate and a half per person and walk away with both a full wallet and belly. And, don't let the traditional tapas items on this menu shape your expectations. Each of my favorite dishes was based off of classic plates, but presented and prepared with a twist.
Halfway through my meal, I realized that Poco is the reincarnation of one of my old favorite east side dives. Upon sneaking downstairs, I was pleased to find that the second bar in the basement is still available for private parties. Whether you are there for a party or dinner, I highly recommend exploring their cocktail menu. The Poco Splash- gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a splash of cava- was one of the most refreshing mixed drinks I have stumbled upon in awhile. And while that was not a special of the evening, be sure to tune into their weekly offerings as they range from trivia night to cocktails du jour.
Poco is all about having a good time - and the food falls right into this theme. I highly recommend the lobster mac-n-cheese prepared with manchego, parmesan, asiago cheese, topped with crunchy panko. Believe me, for every bite of lobster you score, you will know why it's a must. Another new take on a traditional dish is their calamari- tossed in a honey chipotle aioli and served with roasted piquillo peppers and fresh cilantro. I have never tasted calamari prepared in this way and am now wondering why this isn't the suggested preparation - it was delicious. The other dish you should not miss out on is the skirt steak and manchego cheese lollipops. The accompaniments of sweet onion jam and cilantro pesto take this tapa from one level to the next. And, for a lighter option, I recommend the mango tuna ceviche served with jicama, cucumber and jalapeno.
Perhaps its name is referring to the little amount of money you will spend, or the cozy little bar in the basement, or even the adorable little glass jars used to serve iced water. But Poco's food is certainly not the root of its namesake. If only more tapas restaurant shared this little philosophy - my wallet would be in much better shape!
33 Avenue B (at 3rd st.)
New York, NY 10009
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):