Preview: poco a poco
Little by little, they’re opening…
I love Hyde Park Square– it’s easily in my top five favorite spots in the city. As a little girl, my great aunts lived in A’Laise and took me for ice cream, waved to the firefighters, let me press my nose on the shop windows to look in– very different from the suburban sprawl I grew up in.
So last Saturday, Terry and I wanted to try something new for lunch, so I suggested we wander up to the Square to see what was going on. Hyde Park Blast was this weekend, so I assumed there might be some interesting food. I was right! poco a poco, the new latin/asian concept in the old Red space was open. They had outdoor seating available, and indoor– but on a hot day like Saturday was, outdoor wasn’t even a consideration. We made our way into the nearly unrecognizable space: all of the dark decor had been replaced with bright colors; the red lightbulbs with white, and the windows flung open. It is a fantastic transformation of the space.
The server came over and explained that they were doing a gradual soft opening– opening for Square events before their grand opening on July 9th, but in the meantime they were offering a limited menu. She recommended the ceviche as her favorite dish, and took our drink order– I had a poco margarita, and Terry stuck with water.
The margarita was great– and when the owner came around asking us how we liked everything (as they were doing with everyone), I asked what made it a “poco” margarita– he said they made their own sour mix, and added a splash of orange juice. This was a nice, smooth margarita– great for a hot day.
We started off with some really nice guacamole (well seasoned, not too spicy, but not boring either) and really great, freshly-made chips. The chips were tossed in a spice mix– hints of red pepper, cumin and salt were most prominent– and they were addictive.
For our entrees, we picked the ceviche (on the server’s recommendation) and the pork shoulder. The ceviche, a mix of squid and shrimp in lemon, lime, and orange juices, was the best I’ve had in quite a while. The flavors were bright, the citrus cooling, and the presentation beautiful. The portion was generous– as it was a “small plate” I figured it would be just a couple of pieces of seafood– but instead, it was an entire pint glass full of the seafood and citrus mixture. Terry, who had a bad ceviche experience, said it was the best he’d ever had, and kept stealing bites from the pint glass. That’s always a good sign.
Terry’s pork shoulder was also good– served with grilled tortillas (and they brought more if you needed them), they were spicy and rich, not greasy, with a little bit of chihuaha cheese for creaminess. I couldn’t put my finger on what the spice profile was– as this is supposed to be Latin with an Asian flair, I’m pretty sure I tasted sriracha mixed in with tomatoes and cumin. Though it, too, was a small plate, the portion of pork was large and easily split between two people.
There was a table next to us that got the other things on the menu that we didn’t try– chicken and shrimp. They raved about the shrimp to the owner, who came around to every table asking for suggestions and reactions. I need to go back and try those shrimp, along with the other menu items they will be introducing on July 9.
In the meantime, catch them while you can– they’ll be open sporadically for the next week. This is a great addition to Hyde Park Square, and from what I can tell, a great improvement to Red, as the prices are affordable and could be an easy, walkable regular destination for Hyde Park residents. I know I’ll make a trip up there soon to try out the entire menu, so consider this a preview!