Salsa Latina, Matawan, NJ

I am by no means an expert in Latino cuisine, but I know one thing for sure – I love it. Sure, I’ve tried my hand (with the help of Goya) at making Latino recipes at home, but I know when I really want to eat some good stuff I have to go out for it. Growing up in the Elizabeth, NJ area, there were no shortages of Latino eateries – great little Cuban luncheonettes where you could get an awesome Cubano sandwich. Later on, lived in Weehawkin, NJ, surrounded by West New York and Union City, where these charming little eateries sometimes only had the menu in their native language and I’d feast on black beans and rice. Ahh…good times.

So, moving down to Upper Monmouth County, land of the chain restaurant, has been an interesting challenge to the palate. Naturally when I heard all of the buzz over at my favorite food board, Chowhound, about a new Puerto Rican eatery in Matawan, I needed to get there. Fast. I headed there this past Saturday night and had a late seating, around 9:30 p.m. Had called earlier and confirmed they were serving til 10:00 p.m. Cute, little place in a strip mall. Nice decor inside as well. Fantastic music playing.

We ordered one appetizer, Papa Rellenas, Stuffed Potatoes with Beef. These are deep-fried balls with mashed potatoes inside and a seasoned beef center. The appetizer was two generous servings. The presentation I thought was a bit weak. They were on a very large plate and had what looked like someones leftover salad thrown across the plate. I think a smaller plate or bowl, maybe with some sort of dipping sauce could have helped. The flavors were pretty good, nicely seasoned and then as I got to the center of mine – coldness. Mine had not been heated all the way through. Very disappointing.

Meanwhile the waiter had stopped at our table to let us know that the beef for the Ropa Vieja my husband had ordered had went bad and they didn’t have anymore. What is wrong with me? We should have left right then and there. I think that’s one of the worst things you could tell a diner – food went bad in the kitchen. How gross. Just say you ran out. How many people were served this dish before they deemed it bad? Just too nasty to think about.

So he ordered the Pork Chops instead and I went with the Skirt Steak. The Pork Chops had a otherwise good sauce on it but the meat was dry according to my husband. My steak was chewy and difficult to cut. I really only managed a few bites before deciding it was just bad. We both ordered yellow rice and black beans. The rice, an enormous serving, was dry and flavorless. It also had a few pieces of some sort of sausage with a perfumy aftertaste (meaning not good). The black beans had no discerning flavor to them at all. The fried plantains were lukewarm, some even cold, and very thick. Anywhere I’ve had them before and upon researching various online sources, shows plaintains to be flattened out before their second frying. These were about an inch or more thick each.

I thought after this terrible meal, is it just me, no it can’t be. So many people on chowhound raved, but upon further investigation I noticed about three of those reviewers had posted once ever on chowhound – for this restaurant’s thread…interesting, no? Was it an off-night for the place? Was it because we went so late? I don’t know, nor do I care, because I will not be heading back there again. I’ve also learned recently on Chowhound another Puerto Rican eatery has opened in Keansburg with two positive reviews. I’ll give it a shot. After all, the folks over at Chowhound led me to The Flakey Tart

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16 Comments »

  1. michelle said

    oh man, i got excited that there might be a good puerto rican place in matawan. bummer.

  2. foodiedani said

    Hey Michelle,

    I’m going to check out the new Puerto Rican place in Keansburg. Will keep you posted.

    Dani

  3. Drew said

    Hi Dani,
    I checked out Batista’s in Keansburg yesterday afternoon, and enjoyed it quite a bit. We stopped in for takeout, which I think the place is more set up for. Solid food for sure. I hope you enjoy it!

    Drew

  4. they actually told you the food went bad? you have to applaud their honesty. 😉 i am amazed you stuck around after that bit of information. i would have been outta there! you’re brave!

  5. foodiedani said

    Hey Drew,

    Now I’m hyped for Batista’s. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    BC&B,

    I know I can’t believe I stuck around. Red flag, hello?! Not brave, just very very hungry!

    Dani

  6. Caius Iulius Caesar said

    Your blog is very interesting, if you want you can visit mine at http://www.oscurosire.wordpress.com.

    Bye bye

    (Latin soap? Cives Romani eam parabant melius quam vobis, barbari qui estis! Loquamur Latine si sciitis!)

  7. Laryssa said

    Eww! I squirmed just reading your description of this restaurant. I love Chowhound too, and I’m surprised that the members on that forum steered you wrong. After reading your review, I wouldn’t even consider trying to this place.

    Keep up the good work! This is my first visit to your blog, and I enjoy it so far. I blog about and enjoy New Jersey food too, and I’m always looking for recommendations and other writers to read.

    Thanks!

  8. foodiedani said

    Thanks for visiting Caius.

    Laryssa,

    Thanks for visiting! I really think several of the posts over at Chowhound must have been employees. I’m very weary about people who only post once and never post again.

    Please let me know your blog so I can add to my blogroll!!

    Dani

  9. Debra said

    Well I guess every place can get mixed reviews, but quite honestly what you said about the posts on chowhound is completely untrue. There are some reputable posters/comments on there. In addition I tried the place last night, and it was quite satisfying. The food was comfort all the way and the service was warm and friendly. I am not an employee, nor affiliated in any way, but before the rest of you jump on the “I wont ever go” bandwagon, try it for yourself. Thanks for reading

  10. foodiedani said

    What I’ve said about the posts on chowhound is TRUE. I checked every post and yes, there were a few posts from reputable posters who post frequently. And there were also approximately 3 raving posts from people who have only posted ONCE. So before you call me out on my own blog, check your facts. And since I’ve posted someone else has already posted another review agreeing with me.

  11. Micki said

    I had tried Salsa Latina and my only complaint was that it was a bit pricey. I thought that they should at least have lunch specials.
    I live around the corner of Batista in Keansburg. They remind me of going to your favorite aunts house for dinner. They are a little less refine but their food is good. The empanadas and papas rellenas are great and affordable.
    You can get spanish soda like goodo and coco rico to go with the food which is absolutely great.

  12. foodiedani said

    Hi Micki,

    Yes, the prices were a little high I thought as well. At least in comparision to similiar places I’ve eaten at in Elizabeth, Union City, and West New York. I’ve heard Batista is more of a take-out place, it’s on my list to try. Thanks for the info.

    Dani

  13. melissa said

    Dani, I believe you about the one time posters at Chowhound. Chowhound can be useful, yes. It can also be shady. The same kind of stuff happens on Yelp! sometimes.

  14. foodiedani said

    Melissa,

    All the boards came come off being shady sometimes. Noticed that on yelp and on nj.com.

    Dani

  15. andy said

    Had a chicken fried steak it was very good,my wife had the mofongo with shrimp which was very good.Food is a bit pricy for Puerto Rican food but hell im sure they pay high rent here so it is’nt going to be no $ 5 for a meal like i get in Amboy.With that said it was worth it they would put a lot of restaurants out if they were in Amboy.Im glad i did not go to Outback

  16. Ray A Rivera said

    After looking forward all day to what we hoped would be a nice Puerto Rican meal, we were hugely disappointed. The service was lousy. Part of the appetizer was raw and when we sent it back, it came back over cooked and slightly burned. To add insult to injury and after waiting an hour and a half we find out they forgot our main course. Staff was scarce and poorly trained. Waited 15 mins for a glass of water I had requested. The place needs an individual who’s sole responsibility is to watch the patrons, make sure “everyone” is happy not only the regulars which was so obvious. The music kept going in and out, low and then high, clearly indicating a head person was needed out front. A Saturday night to boot. Major disappointment!

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