(Corner of 7th St)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
Cuisine: Argentinean, Mexican, South American
Our Rating: ★★★★
Hours: Mon-Thu, 5pm-11pm; Fri, 5pm-midnight; Sat-Sun, noon-midnight
Happy Hour: 5-7pm daily
Cards: All Major
Booze: Beer and wine
Subway: L to Bedford Ave.
NY Mag says:
The name of this quaint Argentine restaurant is Spanish for general store, a detail referenced most in the old-time-shop décor like the front counter, chalkboard menus, and a glass ingredient cabinet. Wooden tables, mismatched chairs, hanging relics, and bread loaves in wire baskets add to the antique feel, but candles and flowers on every table ensure an ambiance that’s more cozy than museum quality. There’s an emphasis on sharing here, with meat-and-cheese platters and a range of small plates, from an extensive seviche bar to cotija-covered grilled corn or the popular avocado fries. A pepper stuffed with spinach, cheese, and corn that’s served over rice and black beans makes a more filling option. The highlight of the anticipated steak section is the costilla de res, braised for nine hours in maté (a South American substitute for coffee). For dessert, flan comes with a trio of chopped fresh fruits, and churros arrive hot and ready to dunk in chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. Recommended Dishes: Choclo (grilled corn), $5; ceviche de bife, $9; flan, $6
Village Voice says:
TAGS: Bedford, Brunch (Weekends), Fairly Expensive, Garden/Outdoor Seating, Happy Hour, Mexican, Recently Opened, Recommended, Restaurants, South American, ★★★★ Great
Nevertheless, one of the best dishes on the menu is Mexican—chile relleno ($14), renamed aji relleno. A huge poblano pepper, still crunchy, pours out cheese, corn, onions, spinach, and rice, and the entire mess sits atop a bed of tomatoes and beans. It’s ugly, but tasty. Other entrées strike an Italian note. Argentineans—half of whom boast some Italian blood—are notorious for preferring gnocchi to other pastas, and bathing them in a cream-laced tomato sauce. Inundated with a brown oxtail ragu, El Almacén’s papardelle ($15) flies in the opposite direction: The ragged chunks of beef have been braised in coffee by a chef who’s chosen to get creative with a traditional Italian recipe. The only real bomb among main courses is the suckling pig: Lechon asado ($16) has been rendered as a sweet-and-sour salad of baby-pig frags mixed with black beans; in the dim light of the restaurant, you can’t quite tell what you’re eating. The menu has evolved since the place first opened six months ago, decreasing the number of taco options but adding ceviches. Originally, El Almacén was the only Argentine restaurant in town that wasn’t a parrillada, or grilled meat specialist, even though the menu contained a small assortment. But recently, a much larger selection was introduced, with the characteristic meats offered as separate items. Served on a tree stump with chimichurri and an angry-looking knife, the ones I’ve tried have been on the money, especially the hulking beef spare rib ($15 each). An assortment of ribs, steak, and chorizo is also available for $38. It’s plenty of meat for two to share, though you might prefer the lamb chops, pork chops, or squishy blood sausage instead. Really, you can’t go wrong in making a meal of appetizers and side dishes at El Almacén. Among the latter ($5 each), find wonderful avocado fries (crisp-on-the-outside green boomerangs served with a dubious “yerba mate ketchup”) and papas provenzal (steak fries seductively sprinkled with paprika and vinegar). While the place is perpetually expecting its liquor license, you’re not allowed to bring in alcohol, though it was permitted in the early months. This is sad, since the best things at El Almacén scream for a glass of red wine. With the welter of Argentinean, Italian, and Mexican dishes, putting a meal together can be a headache. Accordingly, you might just stick with the stenciled words you saw on the windows when you came in. The cold cuts, in particular, are unimpeachable, swerving in Spanish and Italian directions. The $15 charcuterie assortment is a thing of beauty, including hand-cut Serrano ham with a splendid rim of fat, cured and cooked salamis, mortadella, dill pickles, a few stray olives, a pot of creamy mustard, and, best of all, a couple of slices of matambre.