Whimsical Ooviña Is Too Good To Be Gluten-Free, But It Is

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.