BY HELEN KLEIN AND MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK
For food like abuela used to make, the go-to spot in Bay Ridge now is the recently opened El Puente, a modest eatery whose owner Josefina Cardoso turns out lovingly prepared, scrumptious – and absolutely authentic — Mexican fare.
Cardoso, who said she learned to cook at her grandmother’s side, specializes in the traditional foodstuffs of the Puebla region of Mexico, from which she hails.
Dishes are freshly prepared to order, and it shows, with a particular standout being the housemade corn tortillas that are used for many of the dishes. They are thick and sweet, a deceptively simple addition to a simple meal that elevates it to another realm.
We tried several of Cardoso’s specialties, and while they each had their own character, they shared in one characteristic – extreme deliciousness.
We began with an ample portion of quesadillas ($6), stuffed with chicken slivers and melted cheese, and topped with shredded lettuce, sour cream and cotija cheese. The flavors were fresh and vibrant, harmonizing yet individually recognizable.
Next up was a Enchiladas Verdes combination plate ($7.50). Also stuffed with chicken, the enchiladas were just spicy enough to tantalize the palate without overwhelming it. This generous plate of food contained mounds of stewed red beans and yellow rice, the beans enhanced by a hearty sprinkling of cotija, as well as wedges of radish to add another contrast of taste and texture.
For one of us, the hands-down favorite dish was the Mole Tamale ($2). The pudding-like corn dough enclosing the filling (chicken in our case) was sweet and piping hot from steaming inside its corn husk packet. Tamales are extremely labor-intensive foodstuffs, making the ones prepared at El Puente not only delicious, but an amazing value, as, indeed, is everything on the eatery’s menu.
We also enjoyed the Steak (bistec) Burrito ($8), a huge meal enclosed in a flour tortilla that’s stuffed with pieces of beef, rice, beans and cheese. The Burrito is the restaurant’s most popular offering, according to Cardoso. After a single bite, we could certainly understand why.
Besides what we tasted, there were many other traditional Mexican dishes from which to choose at El Puente: Among them, numerous varieties of tacos ($2.50-$8), all enclosed in the homemade tortillas; sopes – thick corn cakes that make a great base for meats and vegetables ($4, with meat; $3, without); huaraches, oblong cornmeal pancakes topped with meats and vegetables ($5, with meat: $4, without); pozole ($10), a rich hominy stew packed with meat, beans and cheese, and topped with fresh vegetable; and tortas and cemitas, ($6), Mexican sandwiches. The restaurant also prepares daily specials.
El Puente has only been open since December 21, and has already begun garnering a reputation among local residents and people who work in the area and who know it is the place to go to enjoy authentic Mexican food. We will certainly be back.
9300 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
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