Executive Chef Ulrich Sterling has some wonderfully wild things going on at Agua Dulce (sweet water) with a vivid host of Pan-Latin and Asian influences that I daresay will make the rest of the foodist strip of Hell’s Kitchen step up to Sterling’s inspired plate. The place is stunning too; the design harkening back to the yesteryear chic of Havana and Rio.
I had no problem launching into some “sweet water” myself, namely the delicious Agave Flower ($13) cocktail, a potent mix of Patron Silver tequila, floral St. Germain and fresh squeezed lemon, topped with a floating mix of berries.
Our first hint that we were onto something very special came with the incredible little platter of Chili and Sweet Soy-Glazed Soybeans ($7), seared to a rich char, with ginger, soy caramel and shallots. We devoured our aperitivos (appetizer), which began with thrilling Island Creek Oysters ($18/half dozen) in a tingly mignonette of jalapeno, celery, ginger and a trio of crushed peppercorns. The essence of fruit further enhanced the fresh oyster flavor. We loved the sprightly Salmon Citrus Ceviche ($13) with thinly sliced red onion and the Yellow Fin Tuna Tiriadito ($15) with a truffled lychee sauce and crushed pink peppercorns.
A la parilla (from the grill), we really enjoyed the Aji Panca Glazed Duck ($24) from Long Island served medium rare, with crispy duck confit, a ginger scallion slaw, and boniato, also known as white sweet potatoes. I almost had to pick my friend up off the floor once she tasted the Beef Short Rib ($23), coated for two days with a spice rub, and braised for 12 hours with lapsang souchong tea. Fantastic! Yuca Frita ($5) were perfectly fried, and a perfect, flavorful side with a hint of vanilla.
We went simply cross-eyed over the shot of Patron Café XO ($11), yes—tequila and coffee together at last! Dulce de Leche Flan ($9) was a shattering, shockingly good conclusion; such creamy gorgeousness found in the incredible sweet caramel flan with salted caramel ice cream.
Chef Sterling and Agua Dulce both delight in any number of languages, countries or cuisines!