Note: Jersey Bites was invited to visit SOMOS Latin Kitchen & Bar. The meal was complimentary.
I was recently invited to dine at the newly-opened SOMOS Latin Kitchen & Bar in North Arlington, New Jersey. Those who are fans of Costanera, the popular Peruvian restaurant in Montclair, will be familiar with SOMOS chef/owner Juan Placencia. At SOMOS, Placencia endeavors to serve approachable delicious food, in a warm, welcoming space, all while offering a creative beverage program, which is not available at Costanera. “We want people to share in the joy and satisfaction of coming together over good food and drink in a beautiful, welcoming space. And we invite our guests to try all of the delicious Latin food we offer; there’s something for everyone here,” said Placencia.
The space, which accommodates around 150 diners inside and another 50 outside (when weather permits) was designed in collaboration with architect/designer Michael Groth. SOMOS is divided into a number of specific areas like the Plaza (pictured at top), a bright front room surrounding the bar and where we dined when we visited, the Taverna, a cozy area of banquettes, and the back room, which is dubbed El Mercado, a festive space designed for private celebrations and public events.
About the Drinks
The cocktails program at SOMOS is one of the best in the area. Award-winning mixologist Rachael Robbins crafts beautifully-presented drinks that reflect her mastery of extracting interesting, well-balanced flavors out of a few simple ingredients. Click here for a video of the Humbert & Lo, made using either rum or vodka, lime, pineapple, and cotton candy!
The thoughtful, playful craft drinks list features cocktails, all priced at $11, and with some great names, like Carmen Sandiego, mixing Pisco, ginger beer and tangy calamansi—a Filipino lemonade; and For a Good Time Call (pictured at right), which I loved. This one is a concoction of Caravedo Pisco, vanilla, passionfruit, lemon, cane juice, and cava. I also sampled the holiday sangria – made with cranberry, clementine and rosemary ($8 for a glass or $26 for pitcher). Non-alcoholic beverages are also well-thought through and include agua frescas, chicha morada, and jugos.
About the Food
SOMOS celebrates all of Latin America, Chef Placencia and his culinary team explore the entire universe of Latin cuisine with flavors with a global perspective. Our group shared some appetizers and a few entrées.
Some of our favorite starters were the croquetas ($7), the alitas de pollo ($10), and the ahi tuna ceviche ($14). The croquetas were fritters filled with aji de gallina, a Peruvian filling of chicken, yellow rice and garlic. They were perfectly crunchy on the outside with an ultra-flavorful filling and an addictive yellow pepper sauce called aji Amarillo. The alitas de pollo were six meaty chicken wings served with a spicy Romesco sauce. Good rendition of the bar favorite with good zing and crisp skin. The tuna ceviche was prepared with coconut, rocoto (a hot pepper), plantain, and lime. The tuna was of good quality and the preparation was different and refreshing with its milky, lime-infused sauce.
While our appetizers were completely satisfying and filling, we did share some entrées and our favorites with the frutos del mar spaghetti ($23) and the churrasco ($25). The seafood pasta showcased shrimp, octopus, mussels, calamari in a tomato and piquillo pepper sauce—a sizable portion not shy on seafood. The grilled skirt steak encebollado (onioned) was delicious with its flavorful accompaniments of rice and black bean hash, poached egg, and fried plantains. The dish reminded me of growing up in South Florida.
SOMOS, which translates to we are, is sure to please fans of Latin cuisine and well-made cocktails in a fun, vibrant environment featuring live music. We’ll be back!
SOMOS Latin Kitchen & Bar
185 River Road
North Arlington, NJ 07031
—Additional reporting by Brielle Diskin