Nuevo Latino cuisine was born in Miami, where acclaimed Cuban-American chef Douglas Rodriguez (“the godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine”) grew up and learned his culinary skills. In short, the cuisine borrows flavors from Cuba and other Spanish-speaking countries.
When Azul opened in June 2016 with the aim of introducing Bangkok to this fusion cuisine, we were immediately taken by its courageous menu of grilled meats, sandwiches, ceviches and empanadas (pastries), but feared it would fly under the radar due to its location (ground floor of a small hotel) and uninspiring, unnecessarily flashy decor.
Fast forward five months and the restaurant has gone through some serious changes. The low-key folded menu of unfamiliar dishes packed with interesting ingredients has been replaced by a laminated photobook lined with hotel standards like Caesar salad, pasta, pizza and burgers.
Besides these fillers, there are still dishes that impress. The pumpkin seed-crusted, cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers (B220) are served piping hot in contrast with a cold ranch sauce, resulting in a bite that’s a satisfying mix of hot and cold, creaminess and crispiness. The chef’s fun tweaks remain in the crabmeat empanadas (B180), served with a mango salsa that packs a hint of Thai seafood sauce, or the warm and deeply-flavored stewed duck ropa vieja (B260), served with poached egg on a grilled corn cake. The tender and flavorful braised lamb shank (B480) comes with a side of smooth, mashed taro that’s also a real winner.
Unfortunately, the Cuban sandwich (B240), a pressed sandwich featuring roast pork, ham, cheese and pickles, retains little of its original charm, let down by overly dry pork and bland flavors. It’s served with tasty, if oily, yuca fries. None of the creative desserts that initially studded the menu remain, so you’ll have to make do with a serviceable chocolate lava cake or creme brulee. All in all, there are enough reasons to give Azul’s Nuevo Latino cuisine a try, but it sadly feels like a restaurant going through an identity crisis.