Mofongo used to be one of those dishes eaten about once every two or three years, always enjoyed but just not a regular part of what was going on inside of my brain. All of that has changed though after a second trip to Puerto Rico, homeland of mofongo, where three different and exciting versions were recently eaten.
This quickly made Albert's, which has been on the to do list for as long as it has existed, rise to the top of what needed to be eaten. The 24 hour corner Inwood joint is actually Dominican, so it is worth connecting the dots from mofongo to the Dominican Republic. Credit might be due to Rafael Trujillo, dictator and unelected military strongman, who ruled over the country for over 20 years before being assassinated in 1952. For many reasons, Dominicans not on his side fled to Puerto Rico, Florida, and New York City, and the dish caught on with their fellow Caribbeans in those locations. In New York City at least, it is very common to see mofongo on the menu of many Dominican restaurants.
Albert's Mofongo House takes it to the next level, making it their specialty and presenting it in a tall wooden mortero, the traditional vessel that is used to mash the plantains.
There are thirteen options of mofongo available on the menu. The one they call "traditional" is the ChicharronFongo ($14.95, above). The mofongo itself, a dish of fried and mashed green plantains, is served alone, with the chicharron on the side. Here the mash includes onions and raw garlic, the taste that hits the strongest with each bite. Hence, it would not be recommended to eat this mofongo before an important business meeting or first date.
Some wedges of lime and two sauces also come on the plate, making variety between bites very easy. The green sauce is citrusy and spicy, while the red is tomato based and strangely satisfying. The chicharron itself is almost perfect, crispy skins and fatty morsels in every bite.
Albert's is dominated by a large wrap-around four sided bar when you enter. There are sports on TV and the place probably takes a different feel in the evenings or weekends. You can order takeout from the counter service area or take a seat at the expanded dining area behind the bar.
When I sat down at the bar alone, before my menu came out I was offered a small sample of their piña colada, apparently the crowd favorite. It was very tasty, but with more work later in the afternoon and the fact that it was just after 1pm, I had to turn down a full one. Regardless, I found the staff here very warm the entire time.