Mary Nelen Photo
Duck with Mexican and French touches in front of the bar at Cafe Latino.
MASS MoCA, Building 11, North Adams,
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wed.-Sat. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sun. Brunch 11:30 to 3 p.m.
Prices: $8 to $23.
Omar Montoya is the chef of this restaurant, one of a three-kitchen dynasty in the Berkshires that includes Messe in Williamstown and Allium in West Stockbridge. Peruvian-born, Chef Montoya is into fusion and describes his food as Nuevo Latino.
We opted for the Free Range Long Island Duck Legs Two Ways. It is made as a confit and a quesadilla with pickled papaya, frisee and a cassis reduction along for the ride. There is a meeting of French technique, confit (preservation with duck fat), with Mexican style: quesadilla and a papaya surprise. The cassis reduction is a nice foil for the muscular yet moist duck. Curly coils of frisee keep everything in proportion.
As for los Antojitos (appetizers), the finest is the crispy calamari tossed with chipotle mayo and lime. Gnarly nuggets of squid provide a satisfying mouthful of hot, sweet citrus, but not in a soggy way. There is also the very cross-cultural Latitapas, made with black bean hummus, chorizo and queso blanco a la saganaki, guacamole, tostones and piquillo peppers. This dish was great, especially the little square of grilled queso blanco, but it might have been served with nice warm flour tortillas for mixing and matching the Latin tapas.
Features at Café Latino that you don’t see everywhere are family style entrées. Three dishes are slow-roasted Peruvian style chicken, Café Latino autumn stew and Northeast Family Farms guava grilled skirt steak (the steak comes from Hancock, Mass.). The los ninos offering is an unadorned plate of chicken fingers and French fries.
Although the prices at Café Latino are somewhat steep—the most expensive entrée, the Panca pepper-braised lamb shank (with sweet potato gnocchi and spinach and natural reduction), weighing in at $23—there is a deal on Thursdays. A prix fixe menu charges $8 for a single course, $12 for two courses and $16 for three. At Sunday brunch, musician Jason Ennis plays Brazilian music on guitar.
The restaurant has a full bar with Spanish wines and specializes in a Mojito made with silver rum, simple syrup, mint and lime. The Pisco Sour is addictive and good for you with Pisco Capel (a Chilean wine made from Muscatel grapes), simple syrup, lime and egg white.
Café Latino buys local beef year round and most of its produce from area farms in summer, giving it a Locavore rating of 3/5.
The advent of MASS MoCA has been a boon for foodies in the western part of the state, where chefs from the big city are settling in for the duration. Café Latino, Allium, and Mezze are being financed by Bo Peabody, who developed a dotcom in his dorm room at Williams that made him millions in his twenties.
Café Latino, MASS MoCA and a free trip on the thruway put North Adams in a whole new light. You never know what you’ll find in those old factories.