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CLOSED: Dinner at Onda

Dinner at Onda
  • Cuisine: Latin American/Nuevo Latino
  • Atmosphere: sexy, young, bar scene, booth and table seating
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: 1x1/small group dining, happy hour, romantic meal, light bites/shared plates
  • Must try: Wild striped bass ceviche
  • Price: All food items under $23
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 513-0770
  • Website: http://www.ondanyc.com
  • Location: 229 Front St., (btwn Beekman St. and Peck Slip

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

What's the space like? 
Warm hues, chandeliers made of primary-colored wine bottles, sexy Latin background music, (optional) al-fresco sidewalk seating, tropical-chic Zen-like space. 

How was the service?
Friendly, knowledgeable and perfectly paced. 

Did you drink?
As I was still recuperating from Fashion Week parties, I decided to hold off on ordering an alcoholic beverage.  But trust me; with a cocktail menu as attractive as Onda's, I foresee a happy-hour in my near future.  Want a little teaser?  Check out the first drink I that plan to order upon my return: The "Mediterra," made with Svedka vodka, honey syrup, black mission fig puree and fresh lime juice.
What did you order to eat, and how was it?
  • Manchego-cheese bread, chickpea puree: Shortly after placing our beverage orders, we received a complimentary basket filled with thin strips of freshly-baked flatbread topped with melted manchego cheese.  A whipped garbanzo bean dip was served as an accompaniment, though the bread was delicious enough to eat on its own.
  •  Crab & arepa salad: Holding fort in the middle of a plate stood a 1" thick, golden brown arepa (corn cake) topped with chili lime vinaigrette-kissed arugula leaves, julienned carrots, chopped papaya, and chunks of fresh lump crab meat.  The differing textures (crunchy carrots, crisp arugula, velvety papaya, firm and buttery arepa, dense crab meat) and flavors were pleasantly and surprisingly compatible.  I loved this fresh medley of ingredients.
  • Wild striped-bass ceviche: Served in an orange stained-glass bowl was a mound of raw sliced bass (fish) delicately blended with finely minced cilantro, jalapeno and almond praline; purple onion and small wedges of (canned) tangerine.  The ceviche was topped with a perfectly round scoop of a bright orange-colored passion fruit sorbet that, as it melted, trickled down the fish to the bottom of the bowl, creating an intensely flavored broth.  Not often does the word "wow" come out of my mouth, but this dish was transporting.  Plain and simple: I would return to Onda for the ceviche, alone.
  • Flat bread: What resembled a piece of hand-stretched naan (thin Indian flat bread) came topped with a layer of melted manchego cheese, followed by a layer of fresh spinach and arugula leaves, and topped with slices of perfectly-cooked flank steak (medium-rare).  Completing the dish was a heavy drizzle of idiazabal cheese, which I found slightly offensive and pungent.
  • Paella Valencia: Of all the dishes we ordered, this was my least favorite.  A black cast iron skillet arrived filled to the brim with saffron yellow rice that was dotted with green peas and small pieces of quartered "chorizo," which tasted much more "Hillshire Farms," to me.  Lining the dish were overcooked mussels and clams with some of the chewiest flesh I've ever tasted.  A pile of slimy, briny, straight-from-the-can red and green bell pepper slices crowned the center of the dish, sharing the spotlight with three grilled shrimp.  You can't make a meal out of rice, alone!  
  • Spanish Fries: Imagine a cup filled with perfectly salted McDonald's French fries.  Throw a handful of sautéed onions and red/green jalapeno slices and a thick drizzle of idiazabal cheese atop, and what do you have? Spanish cheese fries!
What's pricing like?
All items on Onda's menu are under $23.  Here's a peak as to what our bill looked like:
  • Crab & arepa salad: $14
  • Wild striped-bass ceviche: $11
  • Flat bread: $12
  • Paella Valencia: This was a special the evening we dined at Onda, and a price wasn't listed.
  • Spanish Fries: $6
Will you return to Onda?
I would love to recruit some friends to join me during Onda's happy hour, where drinks are 2 for 1.  As I stated above, the cocktail menu is lovely and appears to be worthy of the brutal trek from Midtown Manhattan.  Food-wise, I'm not sure how soon or frequent my return visits will be given the restaurant's locale. 

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