It’s hard to pinpoint the one thing that makes dining at Ooviña in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen such an enjoyable experience. It may be the whimsical atmosphere; the way that the white, willowing tree branches cascade down from the ceiling against soft purple LED lighting.
It could also be the drinks — my mocktail, some sort of cucumber coconut creation rimmed with brown sugar, mentally transported me to a beach somewhere (I can only imagine how the alcoholic version lands).
But if we have to settle on just one thing, it would be the fact that I had forgotten that the restaurant was gluten-free until our waiter reminded us.
That’s because there’s no meat substitutes or vegan cheese here, just well prepared, flavorful, savory food made in a kitchen that runs zero risk of cross-contamination.
Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and bacon are prevalent in many dishes, like the cassava gnocchi: handmade yucca dumplings with bacon in Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and lardon gravy; the garlicky artichokes sautéed in Spanish herbs and kale pesto; the pan-seared scallops served with bacon, olives, and artichokes; and the shrimp ajillo, also sautéed in garlic and herbs and served with sriracha over corn masa cake.
Hands down, the highlight was the bistec y papas, a flavorful, tender skirt steak served with chimichurri over a bed of yucca fries, though the pork tacos with avocado aioli could give any Mexican joint in the city a run for its money.
Whether you’re on a strict gluten-free diet, a total gluten fiend, or a mixed party of six, Ooviña is a must.