2008-04-23 / Restaurant of the Week

Luna de Juarez

25-98 Steinway Street (28th Avenue) Astoria, NY
By Teresa Barile

25-98 Steinway Street (28th Avenue) Astoria, NY • 718 274-4350
By Teresa Barile 

Luna de Juarez opened last November to the delight of many craving inventive, sophisticated Mexican cuisine. Owners Hugo and Gloria Juarez welcome you to sample traditional Mexican dishes with a fresh twist, as well as fabulous margaritas,fine wines and cocktails. Live Latin jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings makes for a very pleasant dining experience.

Nicely situated on the corner of Steinway Street and 28th Avenue in Astoria, Luna de Juarez is beautifully decorated with cool tile floors, sleek lighting and wood shutters on the wall. The glistening wooden bar serves up delicious margaritas to soothe your soul after a long day. Fresh fruit puree is made in house to create their spectacular pineapple margaritas, peach, mango and melon margaritas, served straight up or frozen. You can really taste the fruit as well as good quality tequila, and the glasses are so big, you need two hands to pick them up. You can also choose among fine wines from Chile, Argentina, Italy, California and Spain.

Virtually everything at Luna de Juarez is made from scratch, from the salsa to the chipotle that flavors many dishes, to the fabulous desserts. Chef Benita Arreola has years of experience in her native Mexico, working at some of the finest hotels. Appetizers include two kinds of ceviche, a marinated seafood salad that mixes plump shrimp with chunks of flounder with lime juice and herbs, or with herbs and tomato sauce ($11.95). Aguacate Luna de Juarez is an avocado half, gently sautéed and served atop seafood cooked in white wine. Melted Mexican white cheese adds a creamy note. House made empañadas are delicate pastries filled with savory beef, chicken or vegetables. Fresh guacamole is prepared table side for maximum flavor incorporating chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro and lime juice ($8.95). Sopas de la casa include zesty tortilla soup topped with strips of tortilla, avocado and Oaxaca string cheese. Mar de Cortez is perhaps the most popular soup, abundant with seafood, green tomatillos and vegetables. The little kick from spices makes this soup extra flavorful. Light and fresh salads include ensalada de camarones with grilled shrimp over salad and cilantro.

Luna de Juarez prepares America's most popular Mexican items such as fajitas, tacos and burritos, but with a fresh, handmade approach. Fajitas are marinated strips of grilled steak, chicken, shrimp or vegetables with peppers, onions and tomatoes. Just take a warm flour tortilla and fill it up as you like, along with diced tomato, seasoned rice, guacamole, sour cream and onions. You can make your own tacos too, with beef, chicken or vegetables wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla ($12.95).

Tampique…is a typical dish of grilled skirt steak, that is so tender and juicy, served with rice, beans, guacamole, enchilada and peppers ($19.95). Cuchinita Pibil is roasted pork which has been gently shredded and marinated in house spices and orange juice for a savory, in house spices and orange juice tangy flavor. Just place a spoonful of this wonderful pork onto a tortilla and wrap it up with rice and some chipotle sauce. Grilled marinated pork chops or lamb chops will satisfy any meat lover, and "gringos" will enjoy the 12-ounce T-bone steak or the New York strip, flame-grilled to order. Luna de pollo is tender chicken breast cooked in the chef's own chipotle sauce. Most dishes are prepared mild, but can be adjusted to be as spicy as you wish.

If you can't decide which meat dish to order, then the Parillada Luna is for you. This mixed grill provides a sampling of grilled shrimp, juicy tender sirloin steak, marinated chicken breast, spicy chorizo sausage and tortillas. Two could easily share this dish. With some meat entrées, you'll get a choice of two side dishes such as yellow rice, beans, sweet plantains, tostones, mashed potatoes or salad.

Luna de Juarez is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch and dinner, from 11am to 11pm on weeknights and 2am on weekends. Their brunch / lunch menu includes huevos rancheros with warm tortillas or eggs with ham, cheese, and sweet plantains ($6.95). Lunch combos include homemade soup and salad for just $5.95. Wraps filled with grilled shrimp, smoked turkey or vegetables make a nice lunch, as does the juicy burger served with fries. You can even have your lunch or dinner delivered to your home or office.

You ought to save room for chef Benita's outrageous desserts. The Mexican style fondue comes with melted dark chocolate and cajeta, a creamy melted caramel sauce. Dip fresh fruit and marshmallows into these pots of melted heaven and enjoy! Tiny, delicate crepes are served warm, filled with cajeta, and the trés leches cake is made with three kinds of milk. The coffee is delicious too.

For sophisticated Mexican cuisine, cocktails, excellent service and handsome ambience, visit Luna de Juarez. Don't forget live music every Friday and Saturday evening, from 7:30pm. Brunch and lunch is available seven days a week and the outdoor patio is coming soon. Buen provecho!

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