“Yes and no,” replied our server, when we asked—based on the menu section titled Platos de Cuba—if Ronero was a Cuban restaurant. The “yes” portion of the answer was meant to demonstrate that the island is covered under the restaurant’s stated desire to take diners “on a journey through the Caribbean into Central and South America.”
Despite the “yes and no,” we started with a Hemingway daiquiri from the Classic Interpretations section. Here, the elegant drink is made with Brugal dry rum from the Dominican Republic, Lazzaroni maraschino liqueur, grapefruit, lime and smoked sea salt. That last ingredient is the upgrade Papa would have been unfamiliar with, and it adds an intrigue of which he probably would have approved. For the first round, anyway.
Tuna in the Ceviche Mixta was beautifully fresh and tender, served with perfect plantain chips, fresno chilies and a lime. But it was swimming in a thin coconut milk broth neither the fish nor the pop of the chilies could overcome. In fact, it is easy to say of Ronero, helmed by Cory Morris (Mercat a la Planxa, Rural Society), that the dishes with more straightforward preparations seem to succeed more often. The ropa vieja, a compact though satisfying bowl of braised goat, was utterly delicious, a dollop of goat cheese easing back the hint of gaminess. We’d have eaten it all night long, as it could stand up to the boldest beverages. The Tocino was a row of thick-sliced, nicely browned pieces of pork belly, covered in a lightly sweet chancaca glaze. Rich and a little decadent, this dish was a Central American upgrade to maple-glazed bacon. And though they were laden with fat, we loved the Cordero, three lamb chops grilled to medium rare and served with huacatay sauce, an herbaceous Peruvian staple.
Where Ronero really shines is in its terrific cocktails and jaw-dropping rum selection—well more than 100 different offerings, from biting clear whites to pricey aged versions. We were offered a taste of the unctuous Papa’s Pilar, a dark sweet rum finished in sherry casks, but opted instead for the Botran Reserva, as sippable as a nice bourbon. As with other pleasures here, best to enjoy that one simply—neat or with just a cube. Then sit back and enjoy the trip.
738 W. Randolph St.
Open for lunch and dinner, Tue.-Sun.
To share, $9-$19; mains, $12-$28; desserts, $9-$12