What if I told you I visited South America, Spain, and the Caribbean all in one night, without even getting on a plane? Well believe it or not, a visit to Carnivale will make you feel like you did just that. A singular Latin food experience via a plethora of colorful, exotic dishes, carefully crafted by genius Chef Rodolfo Guadros and Chef Carlos, is what dining at Carnivale is like.
The vibe is such that you feel like you have actually entered a carnival; the energy is addicting, the décor so colorful and the ambiance all-enigmatic. Everyone who works there does it with a smile on their face and seems to reflect the passion that this restaurant was built upon.
Owner Billy Marovitz recently extended a gracious invitation for me to dine there along with a friend, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
The menu screams pescetarian; just what I like to see. But the fish would have to wait as I first had to make my way through their extensive cocktail list, starting with the classic Mojito with Cruzan rum with hints of mint lime.
Okay, now I was ready!
The Guacamole is the gold standard for any Latin American cuisine, and here it’s the chunkier version with fresh avocados mixed in with cilantro, chilies, onion, garlic and lime, and is one of the most tantalizing versions I’ve had.
The Shrimp Quesadilla was unlike any other. A recent addition to the menu, created from an inspiration Billy had on one of his vacations, Chef has been able to create an absolutely phenomenal dish. While I’m a huge fan of quesadillas I’m also very picky about it. But these were made just the way I like ‘em, with crispy tortillas, packed with plenty of flavor and cheese, and a delicious chipotle glaze. I was so impressed, and we were only getting started.
What came next, gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘creativity.’ Chef Carlos came out with a blue accordion shaped box and placed it on the table. My intrigue was at its peak as he folded open both sides of it, and I stared into an array of the most delicious, fresh and colorful seafood. They call it their Seafood Tackle Box. It had, 3 East Coast Oysters, 3 West Coast Oysters, ½ lb of poached Maine lobster, ½ lb of poached shrimp, and a trio of ceviche! With it also came lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, champagne and a red wine mignonette. I was in such disbelief, in a good way of course! Every piece of fish I ate was tender-sweet, succulent and fresh. This is any pescetarian’s dream come true!
Then we started delving into the entrees portion of their menu, and the Salmon dish was brought out. My only grievance with this dish is that I won’t be able to eat salmon any other way, going forward. What a stellar dish; a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with a Mexican anchiote marinade, black pearl rice, farm greens and beech mushrooms. The marinade, which had a mole type consistency to it, not only gave it a deep hue to make it visually pleasing, but also brought a mild sweetness to the dish. I was once again in heaven.
The Branzino was such an earthy and hearty dish with braised fennel, cipollini onions, carrots a tangy citrus mojo. The fish was so fresh, it had a mild, sweet flavor and the flesh was delicate and tender.
The grand finale had to be the Red Snapper, which was wheeled in on a cart by Chef Carlos, it came whole with head one, cooked in a crispy batter and served on the side with a mango-pineapple salsa emulsion to pour on top. This could’ve fed a village and I definitely got to bring leftovers home. Now I’m plotting my next visit, so I can eat more of this.
Dessert ended with a bang, and almost literally. We went to the kitchen to watch Chef make it firsthand, and remained in awe as we watched him construct the Chocolate Dome from scratch, as he scooped dollops of vanilla ice cream with mixed berries, placed a chocolate dome on it and then poured hot chocolate fudge all over it. If you live in the city and have not tried this yet, you are missing out. It is pure decadence.
The extravagance of this dinner experience will stay with me for a while. I also learned that Carnivale offers fun classes if city residents want to expand their flair for Latin cuisine. For Cinco de Mayo, they are offering a special menu and a live mariachi band, and also hosting a Mother’s Day Brunch which I've heard will be spectacular! ($40 Adults & $12 Kids)
Their space also features seven private rooms to accommodate any type of event, so keep that in mind for your next party. City residents and pescetarians, add this restaurant to the top of your list. It will make a lasting impression.