Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Square 1

The prettiest seat in town

The little town of Chambersburg, PA is slowly but surely taking on a more multicultural nature, from the Korean stone-pot bibimbap dishes in Bulgogi House to the juicy drool-inducing roast chicken in Inka Kitchen (the same kind of roast chicken that causes traffic jams in Washington DC's suburbs).

Inka incidentally has been so successful it's spun off a second location, focused not on Peruvian but a kind of Pan-Latino cuisine. Square 1 located smack dab on the center of Chambersburg's downtown features what's arguably the most sophisticated take yet on Mexican/Puerto Rican/Dominican Republic cooking. It also (see pic above) has what's easily the loveliest table in town, with an unobstructed view of the town fountain, and the surrounding trees draped with Christmas lights.

Square 1 incidentally serves Country Club soda--apparently originating in Massachusetts, bought by Seven-Up, now largely forgotten with time but not in the Dominican Republic. Frambuesa (raspberry) is their number 1 flavor (left bottle below); grape (middle) is sweetest, but everyone's favorite at the table was the merengue (right), a cream soda (least that's what it most closely resembled) of aggressive flavor and assertive carbonated bite. 

Instead of soda I thought I'd order the morir sonando--'to die dreaming'--orange juice and milk and chopped ice or as someone put it "a creamsicle on ice." Sweet, slightly tangy, deliciously creamy:

For starters: paltas rellenas, or creamy avocado halves stuffed with a just-as-creamy potato salad and large grilled shrimp, crisp briny sweet:

Then there's the copas as they called or stuffed tostones: plaintains cooked, mashed into cup shape, fried until crisp, then filled with a light guacamole salad topped with more (not grilled but still crispy-fresh and briny-sweet) shrimp--

Arguably their best appetizer--biggest and most varied anyway--is the El Dominicano (clockwise from the bottom): fried queso, tostones, salami, interleaved fried eggs and avocados (if like me you need to raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol this is a good place to visit) and longganiza (spicy sausage) served with lime wedges and a kind of dip--

We asked our server her favorite dish and she pointed to the tinga de pollo which couldn't be simpler: shredded chicken in adobo sauce (I'm guessing dried chilies, cumin, cinnamon, clove, oregano, onions, tomatoes) with rice and beans. Only the shredded meat was tender juicy with bits of fatty chicken skin mixed in, and the rice and beans set off the meat nicely--

I had the pernil, pork shoulder rubbed with Puerto Rican sofrito (a spicy sauce of culantro, roasted aji dulce (or sweet pepper), tomato, garlic, yellow onion--and that's only the ingredients I can guess by taste) then cooked slow till fatty tender and served in a large crusty roll, with fries tossed in corn starch for extra crunch:

Arguably my favorite--yes rivaling even pernil and who doesn't love pernil?--is the chivos guisado, goat stewed with tomatoes onion garlic cilantro peppers till shuddering soft, served with tostones and a cup of rice and beans: 

We didn't order dessert--You kidding? We were an after-dinner mint away from exploding--but we did end the meal on a high flavor note: pozole, the classic Mexican soup with (I'm guessing) cubed pork shoulder, hominy, garlic, onions, cumin, cilantro, chilis (it's mildly spicy), all long-simmered in a pork broth. 

The result is a deep meaty flavor that feels like you've just dived into a big pot of pig and was dog-paddling round the edges. But it's also a pretty bowl, the thick bright soup in stark contrast with the wedge of fresh (Creamy! Green!) avocado. 

And that's about it. If I'm guessing at much of the ingredients or names that's because the menu hasn't been set in stone yet, and the establishment while knocking out great food with a smile isn't really open--it's just a soft opening, with the grand debut to come sometime soon. Can barely wait, and hopefully I can snag that seat with the same view again...

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