Yerba Buena, the latest in a growing chain of Latin restaurants, whose presiding palate is chef Julian Medina. First established on Avenue A and East Second Street, the West Village incarnation of Yerba Buena is located at the corner of Perry Street and Greenwich Avenue.
Yerba Buena is touted for its pan-Latin drinks and food. We skipped the pisco mojitos for a bottle of the night's wine special, a pleasant Peñalolen cabernet sauvignon from Chile. We loved the special appetizer of the night, deeply flavored beef short rib tacos with avocado, and the Tiradito ceviche, spiked with the yellow pepper aji amarillo. Our effervescent waiter rushed up to offer a spoon, the better to scoop up the liquid portion of the ceviche, which he told us was called la leche de tigre, the milk of the tiger, and was the best part of the dish. Although he described the aji amarillo as more sour than sweet,it packed enough of a kick to send Son gasping for water after a few enthusiastic bites. Our starving spawn then refused to share his black cod grilled with fennel, yerba mate consomme, and dill chimichurri; always a sign that something is over-the-top delicious (and a drawback of dining with hungry 13-year-old).
Chef Medina stopped by to tell us the story of his first job, at the elegant Hacienda de los Morales in the Polanco district of Mexico City. He was 17 and worked there for a year for free, eventually landing in Manhattan at Sushi Samba and now at Toloache in midtown and the two Yerba Buenas. He makes his own tortillas for the restaurant, but recommends La Loma del Tepeyac at 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue for the home cook in search of Mexican ingredients.
The restaurant is not really the place for families with kids later in the evening, but more for young singles in search of cocktails and a fun scene. But the imaginative food and good selection of latin music on the sound system were all it took for us to resolve to return to Yerba Buena.