Note: This is is a review of Calle Ocho in its former location. It has since moved to the Excelsior Hotel at 45 W. 81st Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, the former site of the failed restaurant Eighty One.
Calle Ocho is named for a street in Miami’s Little Havana. On this stretch of Columbus Avenue, its bright exterior immediately gets your attention. The interior décor is consistent with the snazzy Latin vibe.
The ceviches are terrific. For $28, you get a sampler of four of them, which a friend and I shared:
Conchitas – Bay Scallops, Salsa Verde, Avacado, Pico de Gallo
Ostras – Four Oyster Shooters (Mojito, Caipirinha, Sangria, Margarita)
Tropical – Rock Shrimp, Roasted Tomato, Mango-Passion, Citrus
Pescado – Red Snapper, Aji Amarillo, Crispy Sweet Potato
(Separately, they’d be $10-12 apiece.)
The restaurant offers a crispy cuban pork special on Sundays called Pernil ($21). My friend, who’s had the dish at considerably less expensive Cuban restaurants, said that Calle Ocho’s version was over-cooked, and dry. I’ve no comparison to go on, but I agreed that the meat wasn’t tender enough.
She had a happy experience with the Cuban skirt steak ($22), which had been slowly braised, and yielded easily to the tug of a fork.
I won’t rush back, but the ceviches and the skirt steak were well executed, so I assume the menu has a lot more to offer.
Calle Ocho (446 Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets, Upper West Side)