>> Friday, September 18, 2015
110-72 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Not too long ago, this quaint little corner on bucolic Queens Boulevard was home to a sushi place. I forget the name, or if it even had one, but we all knew it as the 50% Off Sushi sushi spot. "FIFTY PERCENT OFF???" Samantha asked herself before spending the next six hours on her knees hunched over her toilet. "How can I go wrong?" Yes, it was amazing food, but its time, apparently, had come. Replacing it is Matiz, a Latin restaurant whose direct competitor would be the ever popular, ever crowded Cabana on 70th Road. If you've been craving Latin, trendy, and good, and the wait at Cabana is too long, or the prices too high, you won't be kicking yourself heading a little off the beaten path and coming here.
I went here with Pike on a midweek evening and sat at one of the window seats. It gets pretty dark in the back. Not good for photos. Initially, we were the only of a handful of diners, but it started filling up eventually. Service was very polite, if a tad slow. We barely noticed. There is a liquor license, but, at the moment, it's only for beer and wine, so no cutesy parasol-laden cocktails are on the menu just yet. (The bartender at Keuka Kafe says that the sangria is supposed to be very good)
Pike and I, wanting the same appetizers, split them. They arrived on a convenient common plate. The Arepitas, small open faced corn cake sandwiches, came as a trio of flavors: chicken, beef, and pork (although the menu only mentions beef and chicken) all richly spiced and delicious. The only downside was that there weren't more. I'd love for them to start selling these full sized. Likewise, our other appetizer, the Patacones, a tostone dish, came with three options for piling onto your fried plantain slice: chicken, beef, and hogao, a vegetarian salsa-like dish.
For an entrée, Pike ordered the Paella Matiz. Paella is, for all intents and purposes, a seafood risotto. They're typically rich and creamy and loaded with various sea creatures. If you're lucky, someone puts a lobster on top of it. There was no lobster, but there were mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, and scallops. "Don't forget to tell people that they put an ice cold salad on this." There was a cold salad, which Matiz calls their "summer vegetable hash" and it was, in our opinions, a big mistake. The hash didn't work. Underneath, however, the paella was delicious. Take our advice and ask for the paella without the hash. I chose the Churrasco, a grilled skirt steak that came with sautéed spinach and a cheese papa rellena (a mashed potato ball with a cheese center). The steak was delicious. This was definitely a win. The papa rellena was fine for being a mashed potato ball, but you couldn't taste the cheese at all. There was also an olive oil and pesto sauce on the side that one could ladle over the meat, but it didn't add anything. Indeed, with the steak already perfectly seasoned, it was actually a detraction from the taste.
I, for one was pleased overall. The seating is a bit tight, but that's a function more of space than poor design. As an alternative to Cabana, Matiz did pretty well. If you live nearby, or don't mind the walk, or just don't want to wait on a long line, you now don't have to. I actually prefer the more subdued atmosphere of Matiz to the more crazy and loud party atmosphere that Cabana sometimes has.
The whole meal, two appetizers, two entrees, two sodas, tax, and tip with no dessert and no liquor was about $110. Appetizers average $11 and entrées average $22.