Vacca was located in the up and coming neighborhood of Sherman Creek located in upper Manhattan. A super industrial area populated with garages, parking lots and auto repair shops, rises the Über-chic Vacca Grill & Lounge. As we pulled up to the curb a gentleman in a suit and tie valeted our car and the blacked out doors swung open to welcome us. It was almost like we were walking into a members only club. Once we arrived we were seated in a room that was lit up by translucent backlit murals that occupied the walls. A gorgeous LED-chandelier with multi-color lights glow to the beat of the music that is played among the main room.
The cocktail bar to the back of the room is made of industrial black steel that embodied the entire feel of the space. Behind the main bar is an elevated dining room with Lucite chairs, steel-colored tabletops and a 360-degree perspective on every piece of art. Thick Latin accents came from all of the servers, which truly gave this place an authentic feel.
Once seated my guests and I ordered a bottle of red and my fiance decided on the Johnny’s Mojito (Johnny Walker Black, lime and mint). So tasty and sweet, the perfect combo to go with the heavily seasoned Spanish dishes. The menus were like pieces of art on their own with photographs of corner fruit stands and homemade "hand car-wash and vac"signs located around the neighborhood. I couldn't wait to see what Chef Humberto Leon had to offer.
We started off with the scallops on a bed of Ayuma, green apple and roasted corn. They were perfectly sauteed and buttery and went right with the tartness of the green apple and sweetness of the corn. A healthy dish that is satisfying and full of flavor. Next up were the yucca cakes which were accompanied by creamy goat cheese, chipotle mayo and watercress. These were little balls of goodness. Lightly fried and crispy and once dipped in the chipotle mayo, perfection. Yucca is an alternative to the common spuds we enjoy. It has a much nicer texture and is a bit more sweet than your typical Idaho. We ate every last bite of the cakes. Lastly, we ordered the Buratta caprese. I am a sucker for Buratta. Whenever I see it on a menu I have to order it. The cheese came out on a bed of eggplant compote with roasted tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. The cheese and eggplant combination was lovely. A bit of sweet from the compote and the creaminess of the Buratta went hand-in-hand.
After finishing off our last bite of cheese we filled our glasses with wine, drank another Johnny's Mojito and got to ordering. We all went with the Churassco in chimichurri sauce. I loved the selection of grilled meats and fish and the variety of sauces you could pair with them. The sauce choices ranged from red wine to Vacca's secret steak sauce! Side options consisted of yucca mashed, truffled mashed potatoes, french fries or malanga smashed. For those of you who do not know what malanga is, neither did we. We asked our waiter to explain, but any local describing something foreign to someone who doesn't have a clue sometimes just isn't fully translated! So we decided to rely on trusty ol' Google. Turns out malanga is a tropical root vegetable similar to a yam look wise but taste just like a potato. So we ordered the malanga smashed to taste, truffled mash and we couldn't pass up the traditional hand-cut french fries. Each of our steaks came out cooked just perfectly and the sides just as we expected, tasty! The size of these steaks were huge and took over our entire plates, enough for two people to share for sure.
Later in the evening we ordered the decadent flan and the chef presented us with a Bizcocho de avellanas cubierto de chocolate (hazelnut chocolate cake covered with icing). Both were exceptionally good, but I favored the cake over the tiramisu! The blend of chocolate and hazelnut is my favorite.
We were later escorted to the gorgeous back rooms where events or parties can take place. Tons of art filled the walls and an intricately carved wooden table graced the room. Later in the evening the tables turn into escalated bar tables, the lights get lower, the music starts thumping and Vacca turns into a party lounge with VIP seating and Latin beats. We decided to head out before all of the fun began. Our bellies were filled and our dance skills scarce. I would recommend Vacca to large parties looking for an evening out or even for date night. And don't forget their vibrant brunches that turn into afternoon dance parties. How can anyone pass that up? Vacca is located at 416 W 203rd Street, NYC. Tel: 212.544.0070.