Yerba Buena had been on my list for quite some time and Friday night, I finally made it over. The space is rather small, a bar is on your immediate left when you enter with the seating area extending back. Sunday through Wednesday, they take reservations, otherwise it’s luck of the draw. The wait was not too bad when we arrived at around 7:30pm, but we also learned that they had no heat. Hmmmm. We decided to stay and I have to say upfront we did notice this had an effect on the warmth of the food. I still was able to get a feel for what they had to offer.

Spinach and Manchego Empanada, Yerba Buena

Spinach and Manchego Empanada, Yerba Buena

The menu has a lot of small plates meant to be shared as well as a variety of main courses. It’s not really a “tapas bar”, but we all were more intrigued by their small plates, or botanas, so we sort of made it a tapas experience. We skipped the cold options (seeing as we had plenty of that). The empanadas were one of my favorites. Made with spinach, manchego cheese, a fig salad, and a chichada morada vinaigrette. The bite of the spinach and manchego were so different and made this one, no need for meat to add flavor here. The calamari was an interesting take on fried calamari. The calamari were lightly dusted with blue cornmeal and had sweet plantains, a tomato salad, and a tamarind vinaigrette (if you’ve never had tamarind anything, you should definitely try this!).

I was a little less exited about their arepa. Typically more of a u-shaped bread casing, this version was more like a sandwich. It was tasty – BBQ beef short ribs, cabbage slaw, and a little extra kick added by pickled jalapeno. However, it just wasn’t an arepa to me. The bread was somewhat crunchy on the bottom and I think I was so distracted by the bread portion that I couldn’t focus on how good the meat was. We also got a side order of their shoestring fries which came with a chimichurri sauce. Oh my. Those fries were super shoestring. I’d never had chimichurri with fries before but let’s just say those fries? All gone. I’d definitely recommend these as something to split.

Fondue, Yerba Buena

Fondue, Yerba Buena

For dessert, we opted for the fondue – which was white and dark chocolate (mostly dark) and came with coconut marshmallows, chipotle brownies, churros, strawberries, and bananas for dipping. Divine. Even better though was the tres leches – granted I would likely enjoy the tres leches if I were to have it in a restaurant with heat in January. Couldn’t resist. But it was very well done. It was coconut cake soaked in tree milks and was served with a grilled pineapple salsa and raspberry sauce. Not typically a fan of tres leches, I’d say this is definitely one to try.

Overall, I really liked Yerba Buena and their mix of food. The atmostphere was cozy and the bar area creatively lit.

Yerba Buena – 23 Avenue A (between Houston and East 2nd Street – 212.529.2919

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