Before my first taste of its Dominican fusion cuisine, Blend Café’s menu piqued my interest. Welbi Genao, owner and executive chef, meshes classic Latin flavors with modern American dining trends, using many locally sourced ingredients and preparing every dish to order. The restaurant is open for dinner a few nights a week and has extended daily brunch hours.
The interior of this house-turned-restaurant is quite comfortable. We felt welcomed by the cheerful and tastefully simple decor, with brown paper and a mason jar of fresh flowers on each table, as well as our waitress’ friendly smile.
We visited for an early dinner on a Wednesday night and were surprised to be the only table, a sharp contrast to the busy weekend brunch, perhaps because Wednesday dinner hours were a recent addition. At least we didn’t feel bad about monopolizing our waitress’ time as we ordered dish after dish.
We started with Pastelitos ($8), fried mini empanadas. Half were stuffed with nicely seasoned ground beef, and half with red sofrito-flavored shredded chicken. Most of the meat on Blend’s menu is locally sourced. In this case, the beef was from Pine Vine Farmstand in North Scituate and the chicken was from Baffoni’s Poultry Farm in Johnston.
This was my first time trying a Morir Sonado, a.k.a. Die Dreamin’ ($4), a popular Dominican beverage made with milk and orange juice. I was skeptical about combining citrus with milk – would it curdle? – but it was smooth and tasted like a liquid creamsicle, a flavor that will take you back to a warm summer childhood night. A version of Morir Sonado with alcohol ($8) is also available. My husband had passion fruit juice ($2.50). These fruity drinks were a good accompaniment to the savory appetizers.
The Ceviche con Tostones ($12) was a chowder-cup-sized portion of ceviche made with red snapper, shrimp, peppers and onions. It had a lively, almost fizzy, bite. The tostones, served on the side, were rounds of plantain that had been smashed and fried. A generous sprinkle of sea salt gave the tostones an extra appeal.
The Pulled Pork Sliders ($9) were not the usual sports bar variety served on miniature buns. Instead, our three sliders were open-faced, the pulled pork piled on top of tostones, then garnished with coleslaw and deliciously salty caramelized shallots.
As we moved onto entrées, we switched to alcoholic beverages. My husband ordered a Corona ($4) and I happily sipped a Passion Fruit Sangria ($8).
The heftier side of the menu has a selection of more traditional entrée plates as well as sandwiches decadent enough to be a main meal. My husband ordered El Churasco ($12), a grilled, thinly sliced flank steak topped with chimichurri sauce and tiny pickled radish slices. This (along with the other non-sandwich entrées on the menu) usually comes with Dominican rice and beans, but the kitchen was out on our visit, so it was instead served with mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini slices. The substitution was elegantly presented and fit well with the steak.
I am not exaggerating when I say that The Ultimate Cuban ($10) was the best sandwich I’ve had in recent memory. Pulled pork, Dominican salami, pickles and Swiss cheese were pressed in a ciabatta bun spread with anchovy mustard. Every ingredient in this sandwich shone – the pulled pork is smoked in-house, the sliced pickles (also homemade) are tangy, and the ciabatta was very fresh. We were delighted that the sandwich came with a side of Yucca Fries (also available a la carte for $4).
That night’s dessert special was a Strawberry Bread Pudding ($6). A dense rectangle of bread pudding was accompanied by finely diced strawberries and plums heated into a compote. The dish was topped with freshly whipped cream. We had no trouble finishing this warm dessert.
The quality of the food was what I would expect (and often do not find) at a more established restaurant. Chef Genao is a graduate of the Genesis Center’s culinary program, an adult job-training course designed to prepare adult students for a restaurant career in less than four months. After the program, he interned at Al Forno. He clearly has a natural knack for flavor and has learned from these experiences; that talent shows in his artful combinations and well-seasoned dishes at Blend Café.
745 Reservoir Avenue