As new restaurants pop up frequently in Mamaroneck, I seem to be visiting this diverse community frequently. Most recently, there was Sofia’s, and Fez. Newest among these choices is the unique Donjito. The group who brought Popojito to Scarsdale recently has graced Westchester with its charming Donjito Tacos and Tapas in Mamaroneck. Here the menu is a unique rendition of Nuevo Latino dishes. Executive Chef Carlos Rodriguez said, “We hope to create memories for our guests and meet their expectations of dining out in a spot where the nucleus of our dishes are of Latin and Spanish roots." They indicated that Mamaroneck is a community experiencing revitalization with a very diverse population.
Sue Vitiello, General Manager, a welcoming presence in the dining room, described Donjito as having the appearance of a Spanish wine cellar. The bar area in the front has high tables and many seats at the bar. The dark woods, brick and brown textured leather lend a sophisticated look to the space. Seating about 69 guests in the interior and about 40 in the lovely outdoor back patio, the mood is set for a great dining experience.
Headed by Executive Chef Carlos Rodriguez, and Chef de Cuisine Sean Fitzgerald, this is a kitchen where real care is taken in each step of the preparation resulting in excellent finished products. It is refreshing to note that both Chef Rodriguez and Chef Fitzgerald appear to be on the same page with their attention to high standards. Executive Chef Rodriguez majored in acting in college and worked in restaurants to earn his tuition. His exposure to the culinary field, in addition to the fact that his mom is a chef, led him to “his happy place.” He worked his way up the culinary ladder at many restaurants in the tristate area to the title of Executive Chef. Chef de Cuisine Fitzgerald enjoyed cooking from an early age. He believes in learning the basic methods of food preparation and studied at The Culinary Institute where he learned all of the basics. “You need to know all of the rules before you can break them and add your own touches.” Their philosophy includes the thought that, “We do the best that we possibly can. We owe that to our guests and are thrilled that they chose us.”
The menu and presentations at Donjito show off the artistic eye of the chefs. Each dish is carefully designed to appeal to all of the senses. Good stock makes good sauce. Chef Rodriguez indicated that, “All of our sauces are homemade starting with a good kitchen made stock. ... No pre prepared stock bases in this kitchen.” Some very important basics in this kitchen are garlic, salt, water and tomatoes.
A recent meal at Donjito was delightful. If I needed to use one word to describe the dishes here it would be balance or harmony. Each dish had many facets of flavor and a perfect balance of tastes and textures is achieved for maximum enjoyment. Most of the menu is gluten free and dishes that are not gluten free are marked with 2 stars. The first thing that caught my eye was the heavy silver flatware, a sign of quality which followed throughout the meal. Dishes for the table included the familiar guacamole. Here the ingredients added to the avocado are crushed before being added to the avocado, lending even distribution of spices to the dip. Chorizo flatbread, Donjito wings, and shishito blistered peppers are offered, as well. We started with outstanding mussels. Served in a large skillet, they were nicely spiced with just the right amount of kick. The charred chunks of garden tomatoes, melt in your mouth roasted garlic and white wine broth with toasted pita bread was divine. I’m glad they included a soup spoon at my setting since the broth was so good. From the tapas section, I couldn’t resist a favorite of gambas al ajillo. Both head on and shelled jumbo shrimp were seared with a garlic sauce. This was not your every day garlic shrimp. Served with a heavy cream enriched fresh corn mousseline and guajillo salsa and flour tortilla and garnished with microgreens, it was unique and delicious. If you are gluten free request a corn tortilla instead of the flour variety. A rustic pottery dish of pulpo a la plancha looked like a still life. The crisp octopus was poached in white wine and then seared resulting in its fine texture. Burst cherry tomatoes, balsamic onion jam, red chili salsa, red radish, paprika oil and micro cilantro garnished this tasteful presentation. Future tapas choices may include beets prepared three ways, tuna tostada and gazpacho.
For the tacos choices, once again, they are creative and wonderful. With three tacos to each plate, choose from grilled chicken with black bean puree, slow roasted pork or wild mushrooms or as I sampled, salmon with marinated cabbage, avocado and mango habanero salsa. Here a thick slab of salmon sat atop the accompanied ingredients. A wedge of lime completed this dish, excellent in its simplicity. I also loved the short rib barbacoa taco. Here the juicy short rib was shredded and filled with flavor. It was braised in Mexican coke, different from the American coke since it is made with sugar cane. A thick slice of candied chipotle bacon, fried shallots and red radish slices completed this excellent dish, bringing tacos to a very high level. I look forward to trying the wild mushroom and goat cheese taco in the future. If you are with a group, try the Donjito Taco Mezcla, a ten taco platter.
Entrees include the very popular Paella Barcelona with bomba rice, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, mussels and octopus, chicken enchiladas, or chile rellenos. I opted for the churrasco. The skirt steak was marinated with chipotle peppers and served with that wonderful Mexican street corn on a skewer with spices and cheese and a potato chorizo hash.
To accompany your meal, there is a creative hand crafted cocktail selection, many of which are created by Sue Vitiello, with an interesting twist, bottled beer, beer on tap, wine and sangria. Desserts are prepared in house and include molten chocolate cake flavored with tequila, churros, and tres leche cake to name a few.
Get into a Latino state of mind and enjoy the carefully prepared dishes awaiting you at Donjito Tacos and Tapas.
Donjito Tacos And Tapas
122 Mamaroneck Avenue
Mamaroneck, New York
Sunday – Wednesday 11:30 – 3:30, 5:00 – 10:00
Thursday – Saturday 11:30 – 3:30, 5:00 – 11:00
Take out is available too.
Recipe: Gambas al Ajillo (serves 1)
3 gulf shrimp head off
1 gulf shrimp, head on
1 Tbsp. sliced garlic
1 Tbsp. dried guajillo chiles
3 ounces white wine
6 ounces shrimp stock
1 white onion
½ bunch celery
1 bay leaf
½ bunch thyme
4 Tbsps. tomato paste
In a large pot place shrimp shells, onion, carrot, celery bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste Add 2 quarts of water. Simmer and reduce by 1/3 for about 45 minutes.
In a hot sauté pan add a bit of oil until hot but not smoking. Season the shrimp to taste and saute until colored on both sides. Add garlic until golden brown. Add 1 Tbsp.butter until melted and bubbling. Deglaze pan with wine. Once the wine is reduced away add shrimp stock and guajillo chiles and keep moving pan around to emulsify the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the corn mousseline, grill 2 ears of corn and cut off the kernels. Place in a saucepan with 1 pint of heavy cream Cook down to a pasty consistency and add pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp. butter. In a separate bowl whisk 1 pint heavy cream until light and fluffy. When corn mixture is cool fold it into the whipped cream and refrigerate.
Place the shrimp on a plate. Pour sauce over shrimp. With a heated tablespoon, scoop out the corn mousseline and place next to the shrimp. Enjoy with tortillas or toasted bread.