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Wednesday, April 25 News

Baro New World Cantina takes Latin American classics to contemporary new heights

Latin American food is the hot ticket in Fairfield County these days. And one of the hottest new contenders is Baro New World Cantina in Fairfield.

Juan and Richard Reyes, and their family from the Dominican Republic not only know their own cuisine but do fabulous things with the foods and ingredients from all over Latin America, from Brazil and Argentina to Mexico and the Caribbean, too.

The ambiance here is as electric and contemporary as the menu, with a gleaming glass ceviche bar, open kitchen and several dining areas, including a spacious outside patio for warm weather. Lots of natural light and wood play well against warm lighting for a thoroughly inviting atmosphere. Service is smart and energetic, setting a stage for really good food, interesting wines and fun cocktails.

The menu lists local growers and artisans that supply the kitchen, and the taste is evident in everything from the fresh mixed and pressed tortillas for tiny tacos to the spicy/sweet homemade sauces, salsas and guacamole. Warm, puffed yeast rolls flecked with Romano cheese and diced yucca arrive tableside -- these are so good that you might be tempted to overindulge. Don't. The rest of the meal is worth it.

There is a whole menu of ceviche here, including octopus escabeche, halibut with mango and lime with a shot of habanero peppers, oysters with grapefruit mignonette and even super-thin sliced beef tostada with chili and lime. We liked every single one of these imaginative, colorful plates.

Another section is devoted to anticucho, or little skewers. Here the array ranges from light, citrus-glazed shrimp, bell pepper and red onion to rich and succulent pork belly with chunks of masa polenta and a habanero barbecue sauce. Light skewers are heirloom tomato and goat cheese with pepita pesto and hearty eaters will enjoy chicken livers and bacon with a sherry reduction.

Salads are full of such interesting touches as roasted beets with arugula, pickled onions, brazil nuts and goat cheese mousse, or heirloom tomatoes with charred corn, queso fresco and guajillo vinaigrette.

Tacos are tiny and terrific with freshly made tortillas. Be sure to order several for the table, especially the crisp-edged chunks of lovely red snapper sprinkled with shredded cabbage and tomato confit, the sultry pulled and shredded brisket with scallions and chipotle mayo, the rich roasted pork with cilantro and hot sauce, and the tender charred shrimp with guacamole, bacon and chile salsa.

A long list of "snacks" includes some of the more traditional menu expectations, such as an array of crisp, golden empanadas filled with ropa vieja, criollo chicken or sweet corn and cilantro. Baro's version of chicken wings is glazed with chipotle honey.

Little Cuban sandwiches are terrific. But our favorites are a toss between the fabulous shrimp and Peruvian pepper-filled tamales, and the bowl of clams steamed with herbs and roasted garlic.

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With so many small plates, a main course is almost unnecessary, but pan-seared chicken breast with garlic mojo and roasted corn salsa is a winner, especially with the yucca fries that will convert you from potatoes. Skirt steak with chimmichurri sauce and red snapper with chorizo cornbread are also tantalizing.

Desserts are outstanding, especially airy cinnamon sugar churros with sweet mole dipping sauce, or light banana cheesecake with shatteringly crisp fried ice cream and caramel sauce.

Baro New World Cantina takes Latin American classics to contemporary new heights.


1229 Post Road, Fairfield, 203-292-9560, www.baroct.com

HOURS: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 4:30-10:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 4:30-11 p.m.; Sunday 4:30-9 p.m.

RESERVATIONS: Accepted only for parties of six or more


PRICES: (Dinner) Appetizers, small plates $18-$3; main courses $25-$19; desserts $8-$7