De Martino Cuban Restaurant
9 Davenport Street Somerville NJ 08876
908-722-8602 | martinoscuba.com
There is no shortage of small businesses on Main Street in Somerville NJ. This is what Main Street in a small town should look like. Lots of family owned businesses, antique shops, small coffee shops, lack of chains and franchises and authentic ethnic food of every variety.
De Martino’s Cuban Restaurant nails it. It is not even on Main Street, but on a side street almost hidden. They were rated one of the best small restaurants in NJ Monthly Magazine and their food is exceptional, especially for the price.
They were already popular last year at this time when I first visited. My brother wanted Cuban food for his birthday, and this seemed like the perfect choice, especially since its the last time we were all able to go out together in public. While the menu may have changed, the quality and hospitality has not.
While we were missing a lot of their previous starters like empanadas and croquettes, they did upgrade their yucca fries with Chori Yucca which is nearly an entree in itself. They top it off with seared Spanish chorizo, minced and tossed in sofrito over their crispy yucca frites. Once the yucca was gone, we found ourselves still eating every last bit of the topping since it was so delicious,
A nice addition was the Havana Fried Chicken. Instead of usual wings you can find in any fast casual restaurant, De Martino uses crispy fried organic chicken wings tossed in chili oil, soffits, scallions, cilantro and topped with crispy garlic
Shrimp is one of the easiest, fastest and least expensive things to serve at any restaurant, but so often nearly everyone gets it wrong, which is why they are most commonly deep fried. These were cooked to perfection, not mushy when undercooked, and not firm when overcooked. The perfect texture. The only thing more perfect was the garlic butter wine sauce. They could serve this with more of the brioche bruschetta and have a whole other appetizer. The crispy shallots on top did not hurt at all.
The star of this show, or any show for that matter, was the Black Seabass. This had to be the very best fish dish I’ve ever had out, or anywhere for that matter. It is seared to perfection and served with sweet potato puree, green curry, shiitake mushrooms, leeks, spinach and coconut sambal. I don’t even know what sambal is, but it is so mild and complimentary, the sauce alone could be served over anything and it could be a winner. Loved this more than any thing I’ve ever had out in recent memory.
The classic and traditional ropa vieja is still on the menu. The braised flank steak is simmered in tomato sauce and sofrito, and served with white rice and sweet plantains.
The presentation was not just different, but the taste was as well. My wife who is Venezuelan love it so much she had me try to recreate it for her at home since it reminded her of home cooking in her country. I can’t come close, so she ordered again this time around. I tried a bite and also noticed that the meat was not nearly as tender and the cumin was much more prominent. It is still a great dish, but something has changed. However, I will still put it up against any other rope veija I’ve had at any other Cuban restaurant.
Another one of their dishes still on the menu is their signature DM Burger. Without doubt, one of the best burgers I ever had. Ground rib eye beef, bacon guava jam, gouda and plantain crisps on a brioche bun, and instead of fries, a mixed green salad on the side.
They added another classic sandwich, of course that would be El Cubano. Slow roasted pork, mustard seed aioli, ham, swiss cheese, and house pickles on pressed French bread elevates this dish, unfortunately they put way too much of the mustard aioli to make it overpowering and I could not really taste the pork. It is huge, so it can feed two, but I seem to be on a losing streak with Cuban sandwiches. I’ve had 4 this year so far, and they were all disappointing except for the one I made at home for myself. I am certainly not bragging, and I doubt this Italian-American boy can compete with other Cubans when it comes to cuisine, but I am still longing for a Cuban sandwich better than what I can make at home.
The only dessert they offered was the classic Tres Leches, which is always good. There are so many other dishes to try here and even if there weren’t, I hope to return for the Black Seabass if nothing else, even if I come here alone if this pandemic drags on for much longer and I need to get out for really great seafood dish.