When thinking of the 11 Howard Hotel, what usually comes to mind are nights of partying at The Blond or about Anna Delvey’s outrageous stays back in 2017. Although this sexy boutique hotel has been a place for fun escapades and more, Colombian restaurateur Andrés Diaz, owner of SoHo staple Her Name Was Carmen, opened the doors to La Rubia on the other side of the 11 Howard Hotel to more serious pursuits.
La Rubia is a Latin American raw bar concept and all-day café that sets the tone for an unparalleled culinary experience while catering to the whimsical schedules of fellow New Yorkers. It’s a relaxed, yet chic space offering a mesmerizing and offbeat menu.
Upon entering 11 Howard, you’ll make a right that’ll lead you into the space. You’ll feel as if you traveled to a chic restaurant in Bogota or Medellin’s prime Cosmopolitan areas. As a matter of fact, the restaurant was inspired by the colonial charm of historic places in Venezuela and Colombia, with their timeless elegance and architectural touches.
Some of the restaurant’s furnishings were salvaged from the celebrated Gramercy Hotel including the chandelier from the renowned Rose Bar. The banquettes were re-purposed from 11 Howard’s old suite headboards, adding a hint of character to the space. La Rubia was designed by Sharit Kassab, who is the Head of Creative Studio & Production at Showfields, whose design philosophy for the space celebrates the organic beauty of materials and embraces sustainable practices. Kassab created an ambiance reflecting La Rubia’s deep commitment to environmental stewardship.
Kassab mentioned that La Rubia is not just a restaurant, but a place where the spirit of New York City’s converges with the Venezuelan and Colombian roots of the designers and restaurateurs. It is an invitation to embark on a sensory journey that pays homage to the cultural heritage and culinary traditions of both countries.
The menu was curated by Executive Chef Lucas Harrell, whose objective was to uplift the culinary experience with fresh ingredients and diverse flavors. Similar to dining in Colombia, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, La Rubia’s menu evolves throughout the day, all the way from coffee and fresh pastries in the morning, to a full lunch spread in the afternoon, to a raw bar that spans into the evening hours.
We stopped by for an early dinner to sample the goods. All the dishes we tried were extremely refreshing, as they were all seafood-based and brought the raw bar to fruition. The Endive Crab Salad had a sweet and spicy taste to it, as it contained green apple and jalapeno bits. The Fluke Ceviche contained lightly seasoned and marinated scallops, tilefish, and fluke, dressed with blood orange sauce. The blood orange sauce’s tartness brought out an even more refreshing, light, clean, bright, spicy, and delightfully acidic taste that the ceviche already had. Not to mention, the ceviche was garnished with seasonal fruit and avocado and was accompanied by a puffed rice cracker to dip into the mouthwatering concoction.
We also had a bite of the Shrimp Roll. You might be thinking, “Why a shrimp roll?”, however, this shrimp roll was finger-licking good as a buttery toasted bun was packed with a flavorful shrimp salad. This was a very light and refreshing handheld and I was ready to go for a second one.
The Spring Fricasse was comforting yet savory, as it consisted of a mixture of warm asparagus, morel mushrooms, and English peas. Although there wasn’t any meat in the fricasse, it had a meaty and hearty taste due to the mushroom and overall seasonings the dish had.
Of course, you can’t forget to sip on some cocktails. La Rubia has an assortment of bespoke cocktails and an impeccable wine selection. Tequila and Mezcal are the main spirits of the cocktail selection, as the out-of-this-world flavors from both come together to curate expertly crafted drinks. The drinks we ordered were both unique in their own way, and embodied La Rubia’s essence, mixing fun and fresh flavors with top-quality liquor. La Diabla consists of a very special spirit consumed in Colombia, the majority of the time in shot glasses. That spirit is Aguardiente, which is fondly referred to as “Guaro” by my fellow Colombians. The brand utilized was Cumbe Aguardiente and mixed with Titos vodka, Galliano, passion fruit, and a champagne sidecar, which was meant to be poured into the cocktail tableside. The champagne added a satisfying, lighter take on the drink.
The Mermaid’s Special is a twist on a pina colada, served over a king cube with grated nutmeg. The clarified pina colada isn’t your typical creamy pina colada. The process entails milk washing, a unique clarifying technique where the bartender takes a stirred cocktail with whole milk then strains it through coffee filters to create a clear version. As a result, the Mermaid’s Special was also a light-tasting cocktail.
To finalize the night, we did it up Colombian style with some caffeine. Rather than a cafe con leche, we had some Cafecito Martinis, which were as creamy and heartwarming as a regular cup of Colombian coffee would be. The Cafecito Martini is crafted from Ketel One Vodka, CioCiaro Amaro, and Licor. The CioCiaro Amaro gives the cocktail a savory and bittersweet finish while the Licor provides a sweet and pleasant vanilla flavor.
Indeed, La Rubia is the perfect spot to go to dinner with your girls before a night out dancing at The Blond or any other New York City hotspot… or as Colombians say it, “antes de rumbear a la discoteca”.
Follow the restaurant on Instagram @larubiafromsoho
La Rubia, 11 Howard St (SW corner of Lafayette St)