What's in a name? That which we call Sazon 436 by any other name would smell as savory. Yes, I'll admit, the moniker of this little Puerto Rican eatery in unincorporated Winter Park conjured up an image that proved not to be factual. I expected a simple, casual eatery that may or may not have been defined as a 'hole in the wall,â?� but Sazon 436, as it turned out, was anything but. A spotless interior sparked by a black-and-white checkerboard floor, looked over by harmonious still lifes and candlelit tables, lent the interior a cozy parlor chic. The scene is at once simple and dignified, and much the same can be said about chef Moises Izquierdo's dishes.
After celebrating one year in business, owner Carlos Guzman and his wife Maritza Sanz decided to close for a month, partly in celebration of the anniversary and partly in celebration of their daughter's wedding. But they also spent some of that time accessorizing the dining room with black and red linens, extending the wine list and flying Izquierdo up from Puerto Rico to introduce subtly contemporary twists to a bill of fare comprised of Boricua comfort staples.
'Kingâ?� prawns ($9) drizzled in a delightful guava beurre blanc sauce lacked the regal girth, but the starter was as straightforward as it was satisfying. I just wished the king prawns were crowned with a splash more of the sauce ' it tempered the saltiness of the shrimp. Avocados stuffed with shredded chicken in tomato sauce ($7) weren't awe-inspiring, but the fruit was firm (not mushy) and the tomatoey chicken accomplished the task of whetting our appetites for the mains.
The fried red snapper ($18) will certainly elicit a visceral response from sensitive diners. The fish, served whole, is propped upright and curved mouth to tail, but it's the golden, crisp flesh flavored with minced garlic that easily made this dish the highlight of the night. Small complaint: The bed of sautéed spinach didn't look as fresh as it could've ' consider a bowl of cilantro-spiked green rice ($5) instead. 'Atti's Famousâ?� braised short ribs ($15), named for the owners' granddaughter, was yet another dish in keeping with Izquierdo's simple-yet-spirited approach. Chunks of tender, fatty meat fell off the bone effortlessly, and along with a purplish mound of mashed starchy yautía (a root vegetable similar to taro), made for a plateful of culinary consolation.
A glass of white wine passion sangria was sweet refreshment, but I had the sneaking suspicion that the grapes, pears and peaches were canned. The cinnamon stick, however, added a nice aromatic touch.
Just as aromatic was the yaya papaya ($4), a circular pound cake with hints of coconut smothered with diced caramelized papaya. If your teeth are not so sweetly inclined, chef Moises' cheesecake ($5), glazed with guava, is spot-on and begs to be enjoyed with a café con leche ($3) or, rather, leche con café ' our cordial waiter served us a cup of heated milk along with a small decanter of hot coffee. A little gimmicky, but we enjoyed the reversal nonetheless.
The 2008 menu with 'all the greasy good stuff,â?� like mofongo and fried tostones, will make its return in the coming weeks, says Guzman, after which Izquierdo will head back to Puerto Rico. Let's hope he leaves a bit of his legacy in the kitchen before taking off.