What is eggs Benedict?
Beso has closed.
What if Coco Roco, the meaty Peruvian restaurant several blocks down Fifth Avenue from Beso, cooked a unique eggs Benedict? The mouth waters. Alas, Coco Roco doesn't, but Beso does a respectable pan-Latin job of it.
Beso serves "Nuevo Latino" food in the space once occupied by Café Fuerte, which in the mid-nineties took over a long-shuttered retail store and offered light dinners, performance art, and a gay after-hours club. Since then, Fifth Avenue's gentrification boom inspired two refurbishments there. The first, besides turning "Café Fuerte" into "Beso" and updating its menu, replaced the comfy-couch-bearing, old twin display windows with a glass-paned garage door, which is raised in summer to bring diners closer to the bus stop. The second renovation added a heavy, full-service bar near the front, though it's stripped of its bottles during brunch. The bar turns the once prized front tables into a bright Siberia, still sunny but now visually blocked from the happy chatter of diners deeper inside, and too close to the unhappy chatter of newcomers waiting to be seated. So head inward, away from the sun. The bright yellow walls, trimmed with red wainscoting, are cheery enough. The restaurant fills early with young families, lesbian couples, cliques, and table-bridging community. Most recently it abandoned serving dinner, since no one ate their after lunch anyway.
The "Latin Eggs Benedict" ($10) comes with coffee and a small juice (either orange juice or syrupy mango nectar.) Mimosas ($4) are big and cold, their pulpless carton OJ redeemed by a great deal of unfizzy but tasty champagne. I prefer the sweeter, sludgier mango mimosa. Guava nectar is now off the menu, but ask for it; it's a fine alternative.
The hollandaise is delicious, not only buttery and abundant but hot in both temperature and taste. Eggs are well poached, their bulbous spheres resting on narrow slices of chorizo sausage. This, in turn, rests on slices of toasted yuca muffins. Though the chorizo is wonderfully spicy and fatty, there isn't much of it, and its odd shape can topple the stacked entrée as you slice it. Even "vertical" food should be stable.
The yuca muffins at the Latin eggs Benedict's foundation aren't too different from non-Thomas's English muffins, aside from being even denser. But the plain, unseasoned yucca hash browns are delicious. Served as a crispy rectangular pancake, they are slightly softer and sweeter than traditional potatoes, and their shredded texture is perfect for absorbing sauce and yolk. A $3 side dish of bacon is generous and is served crisp and dry, making up for the scanty chorizo.
Service is slow wherever you sit, thanks to overworked waiters and buspeople. Coffee refills must be begged, and on the most recent visit, the regular java was served from the carafe marked orange to indicate decaf. Migraine sufferers and Mormons, beware.
Rest rooms: Clean, large, and newly renovated.